The spate at which the coronavirus is spreading is quite alarming. Several countries are reporting hundreds of cases daily. These countries are stepping up efforts to tackle the new coronavirus that has killed thousands of people. The WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency and a Pandemic requiring stringent measures to curb the menace of the virus. The International health alert is a call to countries around the world to coordinate their response under the guidance of the WHO.
All Saints University School of Medicine, Dominica has put together an informative guide on the COVID-19 virus to help you understand the virus and what you can do to stay safe.
Below are some commonly asked questions and answers about coronavirus and COVID-19:
What is Coronavirus?
According to the WHO, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). These viruses cause illness in both animals and humans. The most recently discovered coronavirus causes the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
What is Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2).This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The outbreak was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. As of 20 March, more than 255,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in at least 180 countries and territories, resulting in more than 10,400 deaths and 89,000 recoveries as of the time of this report.
How does coronavirus spread?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is speculated to have emerged from an animal source. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. Coronavirus can also spread from contact with infected surfaces or object.
For example, a person can contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. The time between exposure and symptom onset is typically around five days, but may be between two to fourteen days.
How long can the coronavirus stay airborne?
A study done by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Laboratory of Virology in the Division of Intramural Research in Hamilton, Montana answered this question. It was discovered that infectious viruses could remain in the air for up to three hours. The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17, 2020.
How long can the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 survive on surfaces?
Scientists found that the virus can remain viable for up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. For those reasons, CDC recommends washing hands, cleaning surfaces and “social distancing” in public spaces.
Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
From the evidence given so far by WHO, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather.
Who is at highest risk of contracting COVID-19?
People who are over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19, according to data collected by the WHO. Also, people with underlying medical problems like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart failure, or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
In addition, several underlying medical conditions such as blood disorders, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, diabetes, lung disease etc. may increase the risk of individuals of any age to get seriously infected.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Some people who are infected may or may not exhibit symptoms. Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat and body aches. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, multiple organ failure and even death.
What are the safety tips for preventing COVID-19?
- Practice social distancing (*scroll down for more info on social distancing)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Stay home if you feel ill.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid crowds.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or use your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands with soap and water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces in your home, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day.
Should I wear a face mask?
As of February 26, 2020, face masks are not recommended for the general public in the US. Face masks help prevent patients from spreading the virus, but they don’t protect the healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.
Is there a vaccine available?
At the time of this publication, no. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. Scientists around the world are working hard to develop a vaccine.
Is it safe to travel by airplane?
Stay updated on travel advisories from regulatory agencies in your location. Anyone who has a fever and respiratory symptoms is advised not to fly.
What can I do to boost my immune system?
Your immune system is your body’s defense mechanism. When a harmful invader like a cold or flu virus, or the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 gains entry into your body, your immune system fights against it.
Adhering to general health tips is the best step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy. These health tips include:
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly.
- Control your blood pressure.
- Control your stress level.
- Ensure you get enough sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and trying not to touch your hands to your face, since harmful germs can enter through your eyes, nose, and mouth.
What is social distancing and why is it important?
Social distancing refers to preventive measures taken to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. This entails deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.
What can I do when social distancing?
Do some yoga or other indoor exercise routines.
Play board games.
Have family movies night.
Catch up on books you’ve been meaning to read, or do a family read-aloud every evening.
How is someone tested for COVID-19?
A distinguished test must be done to confirm that a person has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. A swab of your nose is taken by the physician. The sample is then delivered to labs that have been approved to perform the test.
What is self quarantine?
People who have been exposed to the new coronavirus and who are at risk for coming down with COVID-19 might practice self-quarantine. This restricts movement of people who have come in contact with infected persons though they might not show symptoms of the disease.
Health experts recommend that self-quarantine lasts 14 days. Two weeks provides enough time for them to know whether or not they will become ill and be contagious to other people.The purpose of self-quarantine is to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
CDC recommends the following general health guidelines to minimize the risk of spreading the infection to others in your home and community.
- Do not go to work, school or public places when you’re sick.
- Avoid using public transportation.
- Call your doctor and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This helps the health care personnel take measurable steps to reduce the risk of other people getting infected.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. As much as possible, stay in a specific room and use a separate bathroom, if available.
- Wear a face mask if you are sick.
- Don’t share personal household items like cups, dishes, drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home.
- Monitor your symptoms.
- Seek prompt medical attention if your illness gets worsened, for example if you have difficulty breathing. Before going to a doctor’s office or hospital, call your doctor and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19.
- Call 911 in case of a medical emergency, notify the dispatch personnel that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19.
COVID-19 Terminologies that you need to know
- Community spread: This is a state whereby people become infected without any knowledge of contact with someone who has the infection.
- Containment: This is the act of limiting the spread of a disease
- Contact tracing: Process of identifying people who may have come in contact with an infected person.
- Epidemic: A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.
- Incubation period: The period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms.
- Isolation: The separation of infected people from healthy ones.
- Pandemic: A disease outbreak affecting a large region, country or continent.
- Quarantine: A certain period of time during which a person is isolated to determine whether they’ve been infected with a contagious disease.
- Social distancing: refers to actions taken to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. Cancelling events that draws crowd is an example of social distancing.
- Virus: This is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of an organism.