LisbonPH aims to properly inform society about the most recent subjects on Public Health, in particular the new coronavirus. It is important to have access to trustworthy and updated information so that we can take the necessary precautions during this pandemic. Therefore, LisbonPH has developed a series of webinars about this theme. You can find them in this page and visit the e-book, which contains some important information that has arisen in the interactions between participants and speakers.
“COVID-19 & Vaccination” was a section developed by LisbonPH and JPM, a french Junior Enterprise. The aim was to raise awareness to the importance of vaccination against COVID-19, warning the population to the benefits of vaccination as well as its current alternatives and measures.
Are you experiencing symptoms of COVID-19?
SNS 24: 808 24 24 24
Azores - Clinical Doubts:
808 24 60 24
Azores - Other Doubts:
808 29 29 29 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SRS 24: 800 24 24 20
After being given the requisition for the COVID-19 test, the patient or his/her representative should:
- Contact the laboratory where you pretend to be tested, via telephone;
- Schedule the COVID-19 test.
Sampling should take place at home or at testing centres, according to the list of laboratories.
The test should be performed within a maximum period of 48 hours, after the contact with the patient or his/her representative.
- Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) Molecular Tests: these are the gold standard for diagnosis and screening and they confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2, which is responsible for COVID-19. They use samples from the nose and throat that have been harvested using a swab. Their results should be known in a maximum period of 24 hours after the requisition;
- Rapid Antigen Tests: these are proximity tests and they should be performed when the NAAT tests are not available. The results are known 15 – 30 minutes after they have been performed;
- Serological Tests: they assess whether an individual has antibodies against COVID-19. These are not used for the diagnosis of COVID-19.
On the 31st December 2019, the first case of pneumonia of unknown origin was officially reported, which would be later confirmed as a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The highly infectious virus started to cross borders one month later and, on the 30th January 2020, it was declared as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The number of cases kept rising and reached numbers that made WHO declare a pandemic on the 11th March 2020.
And what’s the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic? An epidemic occurs when the number of cases of a disease rises, sometimes unexpectedly, above what is expected for a certain population in a certain place (local, regional or global) and for a limited period of time. A pandemic is an epidemic that spread out in different countries and continents, that affects a large number of people. WHO defines “pandemic” as “the worldwide spread of a new disease”.
What is SARS-CoV-2?
Coronavirus are a group of viruses that can cause infections both in humans and animals. There are some known viruses in this family that cause respiratory diseases in humans, ranging from the common cold to SARS or pneumonia. The most recently discovered coronavirus is the causal agent of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is the name of the infectious disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which can cause a severe respiratory infection such as pneumonia. The name is derived from the words:
“Corona”, “Virus” and “Disease”, with an indication of the year in which it appeared (2019)
COVID-19 is mostly transmitted between people in close proximity (up to about 1m away) through droplets that are emitted, for example, when coughing or sneezing. It is also very common through contact with contaminated hands after touching surfaces or objects infected with droplets, which subsequently touch the eyes, nose or mouth (mucous membranes).
The main route of transmission of the virus is through the expulsion of respiratory droplets. The percentages of asymptomatic individuals capable of transmitting the virus vary widely, but it can be transmitted by people showing very mild signs of illness. An infected person transmits the virus from two days before the onset of symptoms.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses and quite common in animals, but no animal has yet been confirmed as the source of infection of COVID-19. According to the WHO, there is no evidence that domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, have been infected and therefore can transmit the new coronavirus.
Groups at risk
Groups at risk include:
- Old age (70 years or older);
- Pre-existing chronic diseases such as:
Respiratory chronic disease;
High blood pressure;
- Compromised immune system.
People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call SNS 24 – 808 24 24 24 – or 118, the number for the National Communications Authority.
The most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 are:
- Fever – temperature of 37.5ºC or higher;
- Dry cough;
- Mild to moderate difficulty breathing (shortness of breath, for example);
Other symptoms that may arise include sore throat, runny nose, headache and/or muscle pain and diarrhea. These symptoms are mild and develop gradually.
In more severe cases, symptoms can lead to severe pneumonia with acute respiratory failure, kidney and other organ failure and even death. Groups at risk are more likely to develop more serious illnesses.
The incubation period is the length of time from when the body is exposed to the virus until the appearance of the first symptoms of the disease.
Most estimates predict that the incubation period lasts between 1 and 14 days, most commonly 5 days.
An asymptomatic person is intended to describe someone who has no symptoms of the disease. This can happen in two ways: the person may have recovered from an illness or condition and no longer have symptoms, or the person may be ill and have no symptoms.
The characteristic signs and symptoms of COVID-19 can last up to five weeks. The duration depends on each patient, his or her immune system and whether or not there are associated chronic diseases that change the risk level.
A person is considered cured when they have two negative diagnostic tests taken between 2 and 4 days apart.
There is evidence that the human organism gains immunity after contact with the virus, after contracting the disease, and this effect can be amplified with a vaccine.
Treatment and vaccination
As far as treatment at home is concerned, so far there is no solid evidence that taking ibuprofen can worsen the health condition of those infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, until there is more data about the relationship between this drug and this infection, it is better to take paracetamol (unless otherwise indicated by your doctor).
There are currently four vaccines on the market developed by BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.
The vaccines developed by both BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna contain a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) and are administered in two doses. By contrast, AstraZeneca’s and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV’s vaccines are composed of a modified version of another virus (from the adenovirus family). AstraZeneca’s vaccine is administered in the form of two injections, whereas Janssen Pharmaceutica NV’s is administered as a single injection.
Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, these are indicated for the treatment of bacterial infections and are therefore not associated with the new coronavirus.
Protect yourself and others by maintaining social distance (a distance of at least 1 metre and in closed spaces of at least 2 metres)
Avoid greetings that involve physical contact
Avoid bringing your hands to your face
Hands touch many surfaces and objects that may be contaminated and can transfer the virus to the mouth, nose or eyes and from there allow it to enter the body. It is not yet certain, but depending on the type of surface or the temperature or humidity of the environment, it is estimated that the virus can persist on certain surfaces for a few hours or even a few days.
If you had recent contact with an infected person or visited a contaminated location and you have symptoms, you should call
SNS 24 – 808 24 24 24
If you have symptoms such as fever (temperature ≥ 37.5ºC), cough or difficulty breathing after contact with an infected person/place, you should call SNS 24 – 808 24 24 24 24, follow the instructions given, avoid being near people and/or contact 118, the number of the National Communications Authority.
Visit https://www.sns24.gov.pt/t/covid-19/#sec-10 so you can find out more about how to proceed if you eventually call SNS.
Use a mask in specific locations
The use of masks is compulsory for all people who:
- stay or access indoor spaces with several people;
- use public transport;
- circulate or stay in public spaces and public roads and whenever the physical distance recommended by the health authorities cannot be guaranteed. This rule applies to people aged 10 years or higher.
If you need to contact your healthcare professional, you should do so by telephone or e-mail. You should only go to a healthcare facility when strictly necessary.
How to properly wash your hands?
- Before picking up the mask, wash your hands thoroughly with an alcohol-based hand cleaner or soap and water;
- Look for tears or holes in the mask;
- Orient the mask so that it faces upwards (where the metal part is);
- Make sure the right side of the mask is facing down (the coloured side);
- Put the mask on your face and squeeze the metal so that it moulds with the shape of your nose;
- Pull the bottom of the mask so that it covers your mouth and chin;
- After use, remove the mask by pulling the elastic behind the ears, while keeping the front part away from the face and clothes to avoid possible contamination;
- Dispose the mask into a closed bin immediately after use;
- Wash your hands after throwing away the mask with an alcohol-based hand cleaner or soap and water.
The use of gloves outside is not always effective and, if used inappropriately, can be a vehicle for the transmission of the virus. To avoid transmission, you should wash your hands frequently and whenever they are dirty.
Gloves should be worn especially by caregivers of COVID-19 patients for cleaning surfaces, or by healthcare professionals when performing procedures involving direct contact with infected skin, mucous membranes or body fluids.
Quarantine and isolation are essential social distancing measures in public health. They are used especially in response to an epidemic and aim to protect the population from person-to-person transmission. The difference between quarantine and isolation is based on the disease status of the person you want to isolate. In other words:
- quarantine is used on people who are assumed to be healthy but may have been in contact with an infected patient;
- Isolation is used for sick people, so that through social isolation they do not infect other citizens.
I should be in isolation if:
- I had contact with a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 and this measure is determined by the health authorities;
- I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and the doctor who assists you says you don’t need to be hospitalized.
After you have performed the laboratory test for COVID-19:
- If the result comes back negative, you should follow the health authorities recommendations;
- If the result comes back positive, you should remain under clinical surveillance and under house isolation, until the criteria for the end of isolation have been established.
Patients with confirmed infection are given compulsory confinement by the health delegate (local health authority) and a leave of absence issued by the local health authorities.
The end of the isolation measures is determined without retesting to COVID-19 and in accordance with:
1. Symptomatic patients with COVID-19:
- mild or moderate illness: 10 days from the onset of symptoms, provided you have no fever and your symptoms have improved for 3 consecutive days;
- severe or critical illness: 20 days from onset of symptoms for 3 consecutive days;
- severe immunodepression, regardless of the severity of the illness: 20 days from the onset of symptoms, provided that there is no fever and the symptoms have improved for 3 consecutive days.
2. Asymptomatic patients with COVID-19:
- the end of isolation is determined 10 days after the test that established the diagnosis of COVID-19.
Frequently Asked Questions
Being vaccinated against COVID-19 allows us to protect ourselves individually against the disease and its complications and to contribute to public health protection through group immunity.
Yes. In the development and approval of the COVID-19 vaccines, their efficacy, safety and quality are being assured through clinical trials and rigorous evaluation by the European Medicines Agency. It should also be noted that the minimum time for which vaccinated people were followed up after the 2nd dose was eight weeks. This period exceeds 6 weeks, the period during which the most common adverse effects after vaccination usually occur. For these vaccines, no significant adverse effects were observed in a frequency or severity that would call into question their safety.
The vaccine will be free.
Prioritisation of previously infected people with SARS-CoV-2 depends on assessing the benefit in boosting immunity of persons previously diagnosed with COVID-19. In a scenario where the number of vaccines is limited and access to vaccines should be prioritized according to those most at risk or vulnerable, it is understood that individuals with proven SARS-CoV-2 infection should not be included in the first phase of vaccination.
Even after being vaccinated, the person should continue to observe all the measures recommended for his/her protection and containment of transmission, including the use of a mask.
A vaccinated person should only consider himself/herself protected from the disease seven days after taking the second dose of the vaccine. This is the period that ensures a robust response from their immune system.
The vaccines protect against the disease, but it is not yet known whether they also protect against infection and the possibility of transmitting the virus to others even without symptoms. Masks and distance prevent us from infecting other people if we unknowingly carry the virus.
The extraordinary amount of funds that states invested in their development can explain the speed with which vaccines were produced. The USA alone has invested billions of dollars, for example.
On the other hand, the pandemic itself, with the coronavirus circulating so widely, allowed clinical trials to take place unusually quickly – with so many people infected, you didn’t have to wait long to find out whether the vaccines were actually having a protective effect.
What the vaccine contains is genetic information for the production of a virus protein (spike protein), which it uses to enter cells and replicate.
A former director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States made the following analogy: “a vaccine with mRNA is like an email sent to the immune system that shows what the virus looks like and gives instructions to kill it and then, like a Snapchat message, it disappears.”