Your Questions about the CoronaVirus

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What is the Coronavirus and how did it start?  

The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that causes fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. It is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can affect people and animals – causing mild to moderate respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold. Some coronaviruses can cause severe illness that can lead to pneumonia or even death.   

How is the Coronavirus transmitted? 

The Coronavirus is thought to be spread mainly from person to person – between people who are in close contact with one another (about 6 feet) and transmitted through respiratory droplets that are released when an infected person sneezes or coughs. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of people who are nearby and possibly be inhaled into the lungs.  

It is also possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that is contaminated, and then touching their own mouth, nose, or face, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus is spread. 

People are thought to be the most contagious when they are symptomatic (the sickest), but some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. 

What are the most common symptoms of the Coronavirus? 

Symptoms of infection can include:  

  • Fever 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath 

What should I do if I start to feel like I have symptoms?  

If you have a fever with a cough or trouble breathing, and might have been exposed to COVID-19, call your doctor or nurse. Symptoms may appear in 2 – 14 days.  

If you are severely ill, or not severely ill, and need to go to the clinic or hospital right away, you should call ahead. This way the staff can care for you while taking steps to protect others. You will need to put on a face mask and wait elsewhere away from people.  

If you feel that you have symptoms:  

  • Stay away from others in your home, as much as possible to prevent transmitting the virus 
  • Use a face mask when you are with people and when you see your health care provider 
  • Do not travel while sick 
  • Do not use public transportation or taxis 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) 
  • You should remain at home and avoid contact until your provider tells you it is safe to resume regular activities 

 How do they test for Coronavirus? 

Samples of blood, sputum, and swabs from the back of the nose and throat may be taken. In some cases, samples of fluid from the lungs may be collected by bronchoscopy. Urine and stool samples also may be collected for further testing. If a person is thought to have COVID-19, these samples will be sent for COVID-19 testing. 

How is the Coronavirus treated? Is there a vaccine? 

There is no specific treatment at this time, although some people are being given experimental medicines. Supportive care is being given to help relieve symptoms – this will vary depending on the severity of symptoms. 

There is no current vaccine for COVID-19. The best thing you can do is get immunized for influenza (flu), if you have not already. This will free up services for people who come in with the coronavirus. 

What are the best ways to protect myself from the Coronavirus? 

Although there is no vaccine for COVID-19, the best way to avoid infection is to avoid people who have the virus. For that reason, the CDC is recommending that people do not travel to China and that travelers from China be tested and isolated for up to 14 days.  

Taking these steps can prevent the spread:  

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water, or clean them with an alcohol-based instant hand sanitizer  
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands  
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue away after use 
  • Do NOT share food, drinks, or utensils 
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces with a disinfectant  

 What extra precautions can I take if I have a compromised immune system or other underlying health conditions?   

While we are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people, older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or a compromised immune system) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.  Consequently, the CDC recommends that you take extra care and use preventative measures including:   

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water (if you don’t have any, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, or touching your face, and after sneezing or blowing your nose 
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze 
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as a common household cleaner 
  • If you do develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath call your doctor and discuss your condition in the event you need to be evaluated and or tested given your pre-existing medical conditions 

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 How should I prepare for a possible COVID-19 outbreak?  

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, as is influenza (flu), and while there is no vaccine, there are ways to deal with this type of illness. 

  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are healthy wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases. People who are sick, should wear face masks to prevent spread 
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water (if you don’t have any, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, or touching your face, and after sneezing or blowing your nose 
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze 
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with a common household cleaner 
  • Stay home from work or school and don’t use public transportation when you are sick 
  • Drink lots of fluids