COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, is a global pandemic. As cases increase nationally and globally, you might be wondering if you should be worried. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about COVID-19.
What Are Coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Coronaviruses that infect people usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least two other coronaviruses have caused severe disease: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) coronavirus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-Cov) coronavirus.
How Is COVID-19 Transmitted?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is being passed from person to person through respiratory secretions – the snot and spit that may spew when you cough or sneeze. Experts think that the virus can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces. For example, if you touch a doorknob or other surface that an infected person has touched or sneezed on then you touch your face, you could pick up the virus.
What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of infection include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The severity of symptoms range from mild to severe. In some cases, patients have died after COVID-19 infection.
What Should a Person Experiencing Symptoms Do?
If you have been in an area affected by COVID-19 or in close contact with someone who is infected in the last two weeks and show symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, you should::
Seek medical care right away by calling your or your child’s primary care provider. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel or exposure and your symptoms.
Avoid contact with others.
Avoid traveling when sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
How Can You Prevent COVID-19?
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. There is currently no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. The CDC recommends that people avoid all nonessential travel. For the latest updates on travel recommendations visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
By cancelling large events and implementing social distancing, we can slow the spread of the disease and avoid overwhelming health care systems. Social distancing includes measures taken to increase the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Examples of social distancing include closing schools, cancelling mass gatherings, postponing conferences, working from home if possible and visiting friends and loved ones electronically rather than in person. Everyday preventive actions are essential to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including the flu and COVID-19.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
How Dangerous Is COVID-19?
Experts are still learning a lot about COVID-19. Older people and people with health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes appear to be at higher risk for severe illness, according to the CDC.
The CDC and the World Health Organization are monitoring the situation closely. You can find regular updates about the latest travel warnings and health-related information here: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Matthew C. Washam, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and member of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Washam’s research interests include understanding the risk factors for transmission of multidrug-resistant bacteria in children within the hospital environment.
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