Last checked: 3 June, 2020
Information: ERS Statement on COVID-19 and upcoming ERS events
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.
- Read the COVID-19 message from ERS President Professor Thierry Troosters
- Upcoming webinar: COVID-19 and the management of interstitial lung disease patients – challenges and recommendations – 4 June, 2020 at 18:00 CEST
The following companies are supporting this ERS initiative through grants. Grantors have no influence on the content or development of this platform.
Outbreak summary and updates
What is the novel coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The 2019 novel coronavirus, called 'SARS-CoV-2' (previously referred to as 2019-nCoV), is a new strain that has not been identified in humans before. The disease that is caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called 'COVID-19'.
On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of several cases of viral pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, China.
The outbreak has rapidly evolved, affecting other parts of China and many countries worldwide in Asia, Europe, North and South America, Australia and Africa. On 11 March 2020, WHO labelled the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic.
ERS recommends consulting the WHO's daily situation reports for the latest updates on the number of people who are being treated for COVID-19 and the geographic spread of SARS-CoV-2.
How does the virus spread and what are the symptoms?
COVID-19 is transmitted from human-to-human mainly via flu-like symptoms and respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale. These droplets land on objects and surfaces, and others can catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 by breathing in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs or exhales droplets.
The incubation period, which is the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease, is estimated to range from 1–14 days.
Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle pain and tiredness. More serious cases develop severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and septic shock.
Generally, older people and those with underlying conditions (such as hypertension, heart disorders, diabetes, liver disorders, and respiratory disease) are expected to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms.
The evidence from analyses of cases to date is that COVID-19 infection causes mild disease (i.e. non-pneumonia or mild pneumonia) in about 80% of cases and most cases recover; 14% have more severe disease and 6% experience critical illness.
How can people avoid infection and reduce spread of the virus?
Anyone can contract the virus, therefore it is important to take steps to prevent further spread of SARS-CoV-2. The public should follow standard infection prevention recommendations and follow the guidance of the national government where you are located.
If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early, but always call your healthcare provider by phone first.
If you have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider by phone for advice and inform them that you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. They will provide guidance on further steps to take.
What is the situation in the European region?
There is an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the EU/EEA and UK. Up-to-date confirmed case and death counts for the region can be accessed in European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's (ECDC) daily update.
In its latest risk report, the ECDC says that the risk of:
- severe disease in the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered low for the general population in areas where appropriate physical distancing measures are in place and/or where community transmission has been reduced and/or maintained at low levels;
- severe disease in the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered moderate for the general population in areas where appropriate physical distancing measures are not in place and/or where community transmission is still high and ongoing.
Advice for healthcare professionals and scientists
As with SARS and MERS, when dealing with patients who may have COVID-19, health professionals should follow airborne precautions and wear respiratory masks (N95 or higher) during intubation and when entering a negative pressure room. Healthcare professionals are advised to consult the:
- ECDC hospital preparedness checklist
- WHO clinical guidance for COVID-19 patient management
- WHO technical guidance on SARS-CoV-2 laboratory testing