As of 11 March 2020, the novel coronavirus – or COVID-19 – outbreak is characterised a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Indeed, globally, 4,292 deaths have been reported to date, from a total of 118,326 cases confirmed.
So how is COVID-19 transmitted between people? According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the spreading of the virus is unrelated to what we eat.
EFSA calms concerns in Europe
In Europe, Italy, France, Spain, and Germany have been the worst hit, with 10,149, 1,774, 1,639 and 1,296 cases confirmed respectively. EU Member States with the highest death rates include Italy (631), France (33) and Spain (36).
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the initial infection in humans is likely to have come from animals. This has prompted concerns among Europeans that the virus can be transmitted via food.
However, the EFSA – which is incidentally headquartered in one of the problem areas in northern Italy – has reassured citizens the virus is spreading from person to person mainly via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale.
“Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur,” noted EFSA’s chief scientist Marta Hugas.
“At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”
The agency confirmed there have not been any reports of transmission through food yet is ‘closely monitoring the situation’ as well as the scientific literature for new and relevant information.