ERS COVID-19 resource centre

The ERS COVID-19 resource centre brings together all European Respiratory Society (ERS) and European Lung Foundation (ELF) resources on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 as it is published.

ERS is committed to supporting health workers during these challenging times by providing up-to-date information and a variety of educational resources, all of which are free-to-access.

Information: ERS Statement on COVID-19 and upcoming ERS events

ERS publications

The latest articles from ERS publications on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. All articles are available via open access.

In the line of duty

Healthcare workers on the front lines share their stories of treating and managing COVID-19.

COVID-19: Guidelines and recommendations directory

An international directory of guidelines and best practice recommendations prepared by ERS partner societies around the world focused on the management and care of COVID-19.

Webinars and video series

Expert-led webinars and video statements that provide updates on the management of COVID-19, clinical consequences, epidemiology, research potential, vaccines and more.

Respiratory failure and mechanical ventilation resources

Recent presentations and training materials focused on ventilation and the mechanics of breathing.

COVID-19 surveys

Access and contribute to ongoing COVID-19 surveys that are led or endorsed by ERS. Your responses help to advance understanding of COVID-19 across respiratory specialities.

Research summaries

ERS Respiratory Digests provide summaries of new and significant research, including important early COVID-19 publications.

Patient materials

Access ELF materials for respiratory patients, relatives and caregivers, developed with ERS experts and available in multiple languages.

TERAVOLT project

TERAVOLT is a global consortium dedicated to the treatment of patients with thoracic malignancies who have come together to understand the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients.

ERS Monograph on COVID-19

The complete ERS Monograph on COVID-19, edited by Aurelie Fabre, John Hurst and Sheila Ramjug, is now available online and in print.

The following companies are supporting this ERS initiative through grants. Grantors have no influence on the content or development of this platform.

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Outbreak summary and updates

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large and very common family of viruses that cause illnesses from the common cold to more serious diseases such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2). This virus had not been seen in humans until December 2019, when the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of several cases of viral pneumonia of unknown cause, detected in Wuhan City, China.

The outbreak rapidly evolved, affecting other parts of China initially followed by countries in every continent of the world. On 11 March 2020, WHO labelled the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

ERS recommends consulting the WHO’s situation reports for the latest updates on the number of people who are being treated for COVID-19 in countries worldwide and the geographic spread of SARS-CoV-2.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is transmitted from human-to-human via flu-like symptoms and respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale. People can catch COVID-19 by breathing in droplets in the air, or by touching objects and surfaces where the droplets have landed, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Some of the most important ways to limit the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 include:

  • Physical / social distancing – the rules may vary between countries, but staying at least 1-2 metres away from people that you do not live with can prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Hand washing – washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds is one of the most important things you can do to stop the spread of the virus. Soap breaks down the structure of the virus, meaning it can no longer cause harm.
  • Face coverings – wearing a face covering can help to prevent the spread of coronavirus by catching the droplets and aerosols released when we cough, sneeze or speak that may carry the virus. Learn more about wearing a face covering if you have a lung condition.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and how is it treated?

The symptoms a person will experience due to COVID-19 varies a lot between individuals, and treatment for COVID-19 depends on how severe the symptoms are or how ill a person is. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions are more likely to experience severe or life-threatening infections, but COVID-19 can have damaging effects on the health of anyone, of any age.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and if it is recommended in your locality, you should be tested for the virus.

SeverityPossible symptomsHow to treat or manage symptoms
  • Feeling very tired
  • A fever (temperature over 38C)
  • Headaches
  • A sore or scratchy throat
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste
If you have mild COVID-19 symptoms only it is unlikely that you will need to go to the doctor. Some ways to manage COVID-19 from home include:

  • Getting lots of rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Paracetamol can be used to control the fever
  • Paracetamol can also be used as a pain killer

If your symptoms get worse suddenly or you are experiencing breathlessness, speak with your doctor over the telephone.

  • A fever (temperature over 38C)
  • Aching muscles
  • An ongoing cough
  • Feeling breathless
  • Headaches
  • Feeling very tired
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste
  • Diarrhoea
People experiencing moderate symptoms should follow the advice above.

However, if the symptoms do not start to improve after about a week or if the symptoms get worse, particularly if breathlessness becomes a problem, you should contact your doctor via telephone and not try to attend the clinic in person.

Your health professional will be able to advise on the best way forward based on your medical history.

SevereSevere symptoms may include the moderate symptoms listed above, as well as:

  • A high fever
  • A cough
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling confused
People experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms should initially contact your doctor via telephone and not try to attend the clinic in person.

Severe infections are likely to need time in hospital for specialist treatment – check the ELF factsheet on this topic find out what to expect if you are hospitalised with COVID-19.

After a severe infection, you may feel tired and still experience some symptoms for up to 6 weeks or more.


How can COVID-19 be prevented?

Vaccines will play a very important role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the health of citizens. Many countries around the world have already begun vaccination programmes, which generally prioritise hospital staff and care workers due to their frequent contact with vulnerable people, as well as the elderly and those who are most at risk of severe COVID-19.

In the European Union, all potential vaccines for COVID-19 are subject to a thorough review for safety and efficacy by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). As of 11 March 2021, there are four vaccines which have been granted conditional marketing authorisation by the European Commission, based upon the review and approval by the EMA. These include:

  • Comirnaty
  • Vaxzevria (previously COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca)
  • Spikevax (previously COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna)
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen

ERS strongly encourages all who are eligible for immunisation to get vaccinated as soon as is possible to protect their health and wellbeing. In the meantime, to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 it is important to continue following social distancing guidelines, washing your hands thoroughly and regularly, and wearing a face covering whenever possible.

Guidance for health professionals

An ERS Task Force committee published a living set of ERS official guidelines on the management of hospitalised adults with COVID-19 on 11 March 2021.

The Task Force conducted a systematic literature review of the latest available data to develop the guidelines, which offer a review of the most notable potential therapies for treating COVID-19 and recommendations on their effectiveness and suitability. In summary, the guidelines make the following recommendations for the management of adults who are hospitalised with COVID-19:

  • For those needing oxygen or ventilatory support, antibody treatments such as tocilizumab should be used along with the steroid dexamethasone.
  • All hospitalised patients should be offered blood thinning treatments to prevent blood clots.
  • In the absence of immediate indications for intubation in COVID-19 patients with hypoxaemic acute respiratory failure, health professionals should use high flow oxygen or deliver noninvasive CPAP ventilation using tight-fitting face masks or helmets.
  • The committee strongly advises against the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 due to lack of evidence of its effectiveness and the potential harmful side-effects associated with its use.
  • The committee also advises against the use of lopinavir-ritonavir, azithromycin, colchicine, and remdesivir for treating COVID-19 based on the lack of evidence for their effectiveness.

The guidelines will be continually reviewed and updated to take in to account new data that are relevant to this area.

Further information

World Health Organization
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
PREPARE – European response to outbreak
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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