COVID-19 outbreak: Your top questions answered

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — As COVID-19 cases continue to spike globally, the scare over the mysterious disease caused by the new coronavirus seems to show no signs of stopping—for now.

Over a hundred thousand people have been infected worldwide, with more than 4,000 deaths recorded in a span of months. In the Philippines, there are at least 49 confirmed cases, a development which has raised alarm over residents of affected areas.

But as the global situation develops further, more questions are also likely to arise.

We spoke to some health experts to learn more about COVID-19 and the issues surrounding the disease’s outbreak:

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

For confirmed infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill and the worst case, death.

Symptoms may include fever, runny nose, cough, headache, sore throat, and breathing difficulties.

How long will it take for symptoms to appear?

A new study revealed that people infected by the new coronavirus tend to develop symptoms about five days after exposure. The research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal noted that these signs may appear “almost always” within two weeks.

Who is at higher risk to contract the disease?

Earlier studies said that elder people—especially those with preexisting and chronic medical conditions—are at higher risk of getting sick from the virus.

When should you get tested for coronavirus?

The Health Department urged Filipinos not to run to hospitals every time flu-like symptoms kick in. Before planning a test visit, consider these guidelines first:

-You exhibit COVID symptoms, and have travel history to areas with local cases of transmission

-You exhibit COVID symptoms, and have been exposed to a person who tested positive for coronavirus

Can coronavirus go through the skin and into the body?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is possible for a person to get infected “by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”

However, it is largely believed that the new coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets—which are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Can asymptomatic infected individuals spread the virus?

Dr. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at the University of California-Los Angeles’ School of Public Health, said even asymptomatic persons can spread the coronavirus.

"Certainly, when you speak, sometimes you'll spit a little bit," Rimoin said. "You'll rub your nose. You'll touch your mouth. You'll rub your eyes. And then you'll touch other surfaces, and then you will be spreading virus if you are infected and shedding asymptomatically."

Who exactly are close contacts?

Many people worry they are contacts of a person who was confirmed to have the coronavirus disease. But are they?

According to a World Health Organization official, close contacts are family members, classmates and workmates who have spent time in close proximity with confirmed cases.

“We are talking of a distance of one meter or so,” WHO Philippines representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe told CNN Philippines.

He then stressed the importance of identifying, and when necessary, testing the close contacts to prevent the further of spread of the virus.

Should I wear a mask every day?

“We urge people to practice cough etiquette and use a mask if you're having a respiratory infection so that you prevent contamination of all those surfaces,” Abeyasinghe added.

Health officials have also instructed Filipinos not to succumb to “panic buying” amid the coronavirus scare.

If infected with coronavirus, can your survive it and recover?

Most people — about 80 percent — recover from the disease without needing special treatment, the World Health Organization said. Mortality rate is about 3.4 percent.

After recovering from COVID-19, will one have immunity from it?

Health authorities said it’s too early to know for sure.