The Coronavirus | COVID-19
The Coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe and with it: widespread panic. Towns are under curfew, food establishments have modified their services, if not closing completely. Individuals are exercising more than the usual caution, keeping a safe distance from public areas.
Much has transpired since the first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States back in late January. Just three months ago, few people were aware of how far-reaching this virus could be. At the height of this worldwide phenomenon, people are concerned not only about contracting the virus but passing it along to others. What is the coronavirus? What can we do to avoid spreading it?
What is a Coronavirus?
The Human Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses. The family of viruses ranges from the common cold to more serious respiratory illnesses. Many people throughout the years have been infected with common human coronaviruses usually experiencing mild to moderate upper respiratory illnesses (cdc.gov)
The age-old coronavirus has been able to spread from person to person as long as it has existed. Close personal contact, coughing, sneezing, and touching contaminated surfaces have all been common ways in which the coronavirus has spread. Seven coronaviruses have been known to affect humans. (healthiline.com)
What is the COVID-19 Coronavirus?
The Common Human Coronavirus, however, is not to be mistaken for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19. This new Coronavirus is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation of an outbreak in Wuhan, China. This particular coronavirus has not been previously identified up until this year which is the reason it is called a novel coronavirus (cdc.gov)
However, due to the now widespread awareness of this new virus, many people have admitted themselves to local clinics claiming to experience symptoms that are more consistent with the common cold. Dr. Linda Anegawa, an internist with virtual health platform PlushCare, comments on the different symptoms in this way:
If you have a cold, you can be reassured that you probably don’t have COVID-19 if you just have upper respiratory symptoms and a fever less than 100, without any shortness of breath or severe coughing,” Anegawa said.
What about those who have lesser symptoms, or perhaps no symptoms of COVID-19 but have tested positive? Dr. Anegawa comments:
You’ll also hear doctors and read stories about how most people will experience “mild symptoms.” This essentially means many people infected will have symptoms that resemble that of a cold or flu you’ve had before, with the same level of severity. Some people may not even experience any symptoms at all with COVID-19.
This is especially disconcerting for those who are susceptible to the coronavirus, or any virus for that matter. Those who have compromised immune systems, for example, are considered high-risk for catching the virus. For those who are considered part of the high-risk population, much consideration is needed even before leaving their home. Who are those considered high-risk?
Who Are Considered High-Risk?
Much of the information received regarding those who are considered high-risk for contracting COVID-19 has come from initial reports from Wuhan, China. From the information provided, we now know that older adults especially those who have health complications are still considered most at risk. This would certainly place the elderly population on high alert.
Why exactly are those with compromised immune systems affected by the coronavirus? Infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security comments in an article from prevention.com, stating:
“When your body is already dealing with a separate health condition, it has less energy to put toward fighting an acute infection, he explains. The CDC says these conditions include:”
- Blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease or taking blood thinners
- Chronic kidney disease, as defined by your doctor
- Chronic liver disease, as defined by your doctor
- Compromised immune system, including undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, having received an organ or bone marrow transplant, or taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, and HIV or AIDS
- Current or recent pregnancy in the last two weeks
- Endocrine disorders, such as diabetes
- Metabolic disorders
- Heart disease
- Lung disease, including asthma
- Neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
Can I get COVID-19?
Because individuals who are actively sick with COVID-19 can easily spread the illness, caution is needed in order to protect oneself from contracting the virus. News outlets and media platforms are encouraging the general public to exercise hand-washing and ritual sanitation procedures.
It has also been recommended to avoid touching the face, specifically the eyes and the nose in an effort to prevent contracting the illness, and spreading it to others. This is why those who have been exposed to the disease but have not experienced any symptoms are advised to quarantine themselves in hopes of stopping others from getting infected,
How Long Should Exposed Individuals Quarantine Themselves?
Those who have been exposed to someone who has contracted COVID-19 are recommended to maintain a quarantine period to help prevent the spread of the illness. How long should this quarantine be? Information according to CDC.gov states:
The period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.
How Can I Protect Myself?
At the time this article is written, there is no known vaccine for COVID-19, however, research is being conducted at an accelerated rate. In the meantime, how can we protect ourselves from the danger of contracting the virus?
Understanding how illness spreads is imperative. Once you understand how the virus can spread, you can take the appropriate measures to help safeguard yourself and your loved ones. Regarding how COVID-19, cdc.gov recommends these precautionary measures:
Clean Your Hands Often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Do this after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid Close Contact
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community.
- This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Cover Cough’s and Sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wear a Facemask if You’re Sick
- If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people
- If you are sick, wear one before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
- If you are not able to wear a facemask, then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes
- People who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
- Learn what to do if you are sick.
- If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick
- Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
Clean and Disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
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