This page was last updated on 3/11/2020
What is the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that originated in China and can be transmitted from person to person. The virus is caused by a novel coronavirus, which is a common type of virus that affects mammals, birds and reptiles. Several coronaviruses can infect people, according to the CDC. These strains mostly cause cold-like symptoms but can sometimes progress to more complicated lower respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This new version of the virus has spread throughout the world and has reached the United States. The first US case was reported on January 21, 2020. The current count of cases is available on the CDC’s website.
How is COVID-19 spread?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have emerged from an animal source, but is now being spread from person to person. It is thought to be primarily spread through close contact with another person carrying the infection through respiratory droplets produced through sneezing or coughing. It is also likely that people can get the coronavirus by touching surfaces that have the virus on it and then touching their mouths, nose, or eyes. To learn more about the transmission of COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website.
What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?
Patients that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been found to exhibit many of the same symptoms of other respiratory illnesses. These symptoms include mild to severe fever, cough, and shortness of breath which typically begins anywhere from a day or two all the way up to 14 days after initial exposure. Many of the patients that have had severe complications from the virus also have pneumonia in both lungs.
If you are experiencing symptoms, the CDC recommends calling or visiting your local healthcare provider for advice to avoid spreading germs to others.
If you develop severe warning signs such as pain or pressure in the chest, disorientation or confusion, a blue tint in your face or lips, or difficulty breathing or shortness of breath – get medical attention immediately.
How is the Coronavirus Treated?
There is currently no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19, only ways to relieve symptoms while the virus runs its course. There are currently trials underway to test the safety and efficacy of a drug called remdesivir, which could be a potential treatment for adults.
Is There a Coronavirus Vaccine?
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and elsewhere have been working on developing a vaccine for COVID-19 since Chinese health authorities made the genetic sequence of the virus available. But a vaccine is likely a year away, at minimum, from being available to the public.
Vaccines require months of testing in clinical trials before the safety and effectiveness is determined. After that it is still several more months for it to be mass produced so the timeline is rather long.
How Can You Protect Yourself From COVID-19?
People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness with everyday preventive actions.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
How to Avoid Spreading the Virus to Others
If you suspect you may have been in contact with someone who has the coronavirus and have yet to show symptoms, the best thing you can do is quarantine yourself in your home for up to 14 days. If symptoms do not appear in this time, you are likely in the clear, although there have been some cases that have appeared after the 14 day period. If you do begin to show symptoms, visit a healthcare professional that can help you. On top of self quarantine, continue to wash your hands and any surfaces that you have come in contact with.
Who is Most at Risk From Coronavirus?
The amount of cases in the US is significantly lower than other portions of the world as of early March 2020, but based on the cases in China, 87% were in people ages 30-79 as reported by the CDC last month. Older patients seem to be at a much higher risk of serious complications arising from the virus, with patients 80 years or older accounting for roughly 14.8% of deaths caused by COVID-19. If you are young and have contracted the virus, it is important to steer clear of older family members who face a greater risk.