COVID-19

What should I know about coronavirus?

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Answers Staff
2020-03-19 18:48:29

We've compiled frequently asked questions about the novel coronavirus at the center of the current pandemic. Each section includes links to trusted health organizations.

What is coronavirus? Is it the same as COVID-19?

The coronaviruses are a family of viruses whose symptoms can range from the common cold to something more serious and potentially lethal. A new coronavirus is currently spreading across the planet, affecting the daily lives of many.

In December 2019, an outbreak of a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) occurred in Wuhan, China. It causes a disease called COVID-19, which can lead to death, particularly for the elderly and people with serious chronic medical conditions.

More than 200 countries and territories, including the United States, have confirmed cases of the infection since the initial outbreak, and on March 11, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.

What are its symptoms?

According to the CDC, fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the main symptoms of COVID-19. Additional symptoms may include aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, and new loss of taste or smell. Severity of the symptoms range from mild to life-threatening—about 1 in 5 people who are infected require hospital care.

How do I get tested?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, particularly severe symptoms, the CDC recommends you call your healthcare provider. Tell them about your symptoms, and they’ll give you instructions on how to safely receive a test. They note that while testing supplies are increasing, it may still be difficult to receive a test.

More specific guidelines vary from state to state. NBC News has a handy guide here. You can also check your local health department's website for testing information.

It’s especially crucial that you call your medical provider if you’re elderly or have a serious chronic medical condition. Also, if you or a loved one are very sick (e.g., experiencing symptoms like difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, confusion, or bluish lips or face), seek medical attention immediately.

How does it spread?

The CDC and researchers worldwide still have a lot to learn about COVID-19 and how it spreads. According to current knowledge, though, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. That means droplets from an infected person’s coughs and sneezes land on other people’s noses or mouths, or they breathe them in, and that infects them, too. It’s also possible that the virus can spread through people touching contaminated objects and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.

How can we prevent it?

According to the CDC, “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” Some steps you can take to limit your exposure to the virus:

  • Regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Pay attention to hand hygiene, especially when you’ve been in a public place and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Practice social distancing by increasing the space between you and other people. That means staying home as much as you can, especially if you feel sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces (like keyboards, doorknobs, and light switches) every day.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or a tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
  • When you're out in public, wear a cloth facemask (not the kind meant for healthcare workers; see this guide for making your own).
Are there any approved treatments for COVID-19?

There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat COVID-19. The FDA does, however, have a special program for possible treatments, attempting to quickly determine if new drugs or drugs already approved to treat other illnesses could be helpful in fighting COVID-19. Although some studies are promising, none of the research is conclusive, and you should always consult a healthcare professional before trying to treat yourself—do not ingest anything you think might protect against the novel coronavirus without talking to your doctor first.

When will a vaccine be available?

There are several potential vaccines in development, but in order for them (or any vaccine) to be approved for public use, they must pass a three-phase clinical process before being considered by the FDA. The FDA’s approval process includes multiple steps to ensure the vaccine candidate’s efficacy and safety. While the FDA is working with vaccine developers to expedite the development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, this depends foremost on the candidate’s success in clinical trials, which take many months.

For more information on this ever-developing COVID-19 pandemic, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page dedicated to the virus, found here.


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