Coronavirus, airborne pathogens, incubation period, deadly, contagious, epidemic, pandemic — these unnerving, dreadful words are popping up in your news and social media feeds in recent days. Honestly, it sounds like one of Robin Cook’s medical thrillers, but it’s not and it can be terrifying, right? Don’t panic. Get the information you need about the viral outbreak as well as learn how to protect you and your family.
What is it?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. Cases of the disease are being reported in a growing number of countries including the United States.
How does it spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person in close contact with one another through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales. The CDC suggests “close contact” be kept to a minimum of six feet with anyone who might be sick — this is twice the distance — compared to what health professionals have defined it in past outbreaks, like SARS.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, stay home and call your healthcare provider.
The Medical University of South Carolina is offering free virtual screenings for anyone in South Carolina who thinks they may be experiencing coronavirus symptoms. You can book a MUSC Virtual Care Visit and speak to a provider online — using the promo code COVID19. You can also call (843) 792-7000 to access the service by phone. MUSC said the healthcare provider you speak with will determine if you need additional in-person case. The free virtual screenings are available 24-hours-a-day.
Prisma Health is also offering free access to virtual screenings for those who think they may have coronavirus. The online tool prevents patients from having to visit an emergency room or doctor’s office. If you’re experiencing coughing, fever or shortness of breath, schedule a Prisma Health Virtual Visit and use the promo code COVID19.
What is a virtual visit?
If you schedule a virtual visit, don’t expect to receive a positive or negative coronavirus test result. The only way to test for coronavirus right now is to have an in-person test done by a medical professional that is then verified by state and federal officials. However, the online visit could help determine if you (and family, friends or coworkers) should be tested for coronavirus.
What about older patients are those with medical conditions?
Older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips of face, contact your healthcare provider or emergency room and seek care immediately. Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested.
The numbers continue to increase every day — doubling in some countries overnight. The virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica. Students at Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering began tracking COVID-19 data in real-time with an interactive dashboard, as you can see below.
The World Health Organization Declared the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak a Pandemic
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said what has been increasingly obvious for weeks, “We’ve been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized by pandemic.”
The news came after identified cases doubled in the United States in the space of just two days, Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany said that 60 to 70 percent of Germans could become infected, and Italy locked down its entire population and warned the world that they were running out of ICU capacity — while experts warned many other countries were on track for large outbreaks and health care capacity issues.
“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do. Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled,” Ghebreyesus said. — Vox
It’s a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. Disposable face mask can only be used once. If you’re not ill or looking after someone who is, then you’re wasting a mask. There’s a world-wide shortage of masks, so the World Health Organization and CDC urge people to use masks wisely.
While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it’s now spreading from person-to-person. There’s no reason to think that any animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection with this new virus. At this time, there’s no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread or be infected with coronavirus. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around them.
It’s not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on COVID-19) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). If you think a surface is infected, clean it with disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.
You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading coronavirus by taking some simple precautions:
Protection Measures for People Who are in or Have Recently Visited Areas Where Coronavirus is Spreading