Coronavirus: What You Need to Know
This is a guest post form Dr. Anita Bennett MD with eDoc America. Her original article from early February has been updated here as of 3/6/20.
For more information about Covid-19, follow this link below to the CDC website. It is being updated regularly with all of the latest information.
We've learned a lot about the Coronavirus since the outbreak began in China. Below are some helpful pieces of info to answer your questions...
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different animal species. Although it is not common, animal coronaviruses can sometimes infect people. Rarely, an animal coronavirus develops the ability to spread from one person to another. This has happened with coronaviruses in the past. You may remember the SARS virus that became a global outbreak in 2003. That was a coronavirus, which appears to be closely related to the current coronavirus outbreak.
The current coronavirus is abbreviated Covid-19. It was first detected in Wuhan City, in the Hubei Province of China. Chinese health officials have reported thousands of infections with this virus, and it has been confirmed that there is person-to-person spread. Additional cases have been identified in a growing number of international locations.
On 1/30/2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the virus a global health emergency. This designation will help the WHO to mobilize financial and political support to help contain the outbreak.
What are symptoms and how severe are they?
Reported illnesses from confirmed cases have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill.
- Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Current information suggests that serious illness occurs in approximately 16% of cases.
- Older people and people with certain chronic medical problems, such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, appear to be at greatest risk for serious illness.
- We have learned that some people can have the virus with little, or no symptoms.
How is Covid-19 spread?
The virus is thought to be spread primarily from person-to-person.This usually happens between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet of each other). It is spread through respiratory droplets that are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets are generally not visible, but can land on people nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The droplets can land on an infected person's hand, then be transmitted to another person with a handshake. The droplet then has to make its way to your eyes, nose, or mouth in order to cause infection.
How easily does Covid-19 spread?
People appear to be most contagious when they are the sickest. There have been reports of the virus spreading before people show symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
The virus does seem to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community in some affected areas. This is called "community spread." This means that people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how they were exposed to the virus.
How can you protect yourself and your community from COVID-19?
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- If you are sick, STAY HOME. If your kids are sick, keep them home from school.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Use an alternative to handshaking when greeting someone, maybe a friendly wave of the hand.
- Wash your hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or before eating or preparing food. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Keep up your routine exercise program. Remember that 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day improves your immune response to fight viruses.
Should you wear a facemask?
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Facemasks are crucial for health care workers or people who are taking care of someone who has COVID-19 or has symptoms concerning for the virus.
- The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves in the community from any respiratory disease, including COVID-19.
What is the incubation period of this virus?
The incubation period is the time that it takes for symptoms to appear after a person has been exposed to a virus. The incubation period for Covid-19 is not definitively known at this time. The CDC believes that the incubation period is about 14 days. This is based on current observations as well as information that we know about the SARS virus.
What is the situation in the United States at this time?
- Check this link to the CDC website. It is being updated regularly with all of the latest information.
- Testing is being done in all states, and any person with symptoms and a doctor's order can be tested. Specifics vary by location.
- Americans are being asked to stay home and help stop the spread with social distancing.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at an elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at an elevated risk of exposure.
What can we expect to happen next?
More cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the coming days. It is likely that community spread will continue to occur and that at some point, widespread transmission will occur across the U.S.
How concerned should you be?
- There is no reason to panic, but you should be concerned and cautious.
- You should keep up with your local news in order to stay informed about the situation in your local community.
- Cease all unnecessary travel as advised by officials and practice social distancing.
- Talk with your employer about working at home if you aren't already.
For more information about Covid-19, follow this link to the CDC website. It is being updated regularly with all of the latest information.