Virologist Marc Van Ranst answers your questions on COVID-19

That is the number of questions that VRT News readers, viewers and listeners sent in to be answered by Marc Van Ranst (Leuven University), the leading Belgian expert on viruses. Here is a selection of parts of his answers:

“Coronavirus is slightly more infections than ordinary flu.  As yet we don’t know if it is deadlier or not. Figures suggest it is slightly more fatal. At present no vaccines or antiviral products exist for COVID-19.”

“There are good arguments in favour of the virus disappearing in the spring, when it gets warmer.  Other coronaviruses that we are familiar with display this behaviour: in 2003 SARS started around the same time of year and disappeared by June”.

“The main method of virus transmission is through coughing and sneezing, when you breathe in droplets from somebody else’s mouth or nose.  Hand-washing too will help.”

“It’s extremely unlikely that the virus can be transmitted via our pets.”

“People at risk are the same for COVID-19 as for flu: the elderly in poorer shape and with older immune systems, people with underlying health issues: heart, liver and kidney patients.”

“We have little information to answer the question whether pregnant women are more at risk.  So far few pregnant women are among those who are seriously ill with the disease worldwide.”

“If you are in the 20 to 40 age bracket the chance you end up in hospital and have a nasty experience is particularly small.  In China several nurses and doctors died, but they were frontline soldiers working for weeks in very challenging circumstances.”

“You can catch the disease from people who are incubating the disease, but they are hundreds or thousands of times less infectious than people who cough and sneeze all day.”