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What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
May 07

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Officially called COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019; also referred to here as “coronavirus”), the coronavirus that is currently circulating the world is a new disease that we have limited information about. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working around the clock to learn more about this disease and keep the public informed.

Here you’ll find information from the CDC about how to protect yourself from the coronavirus, symptoms of the coronavirus disease, what to do if you think you are sick, and answers to the most commonly asked questions about COVID-19.

How to Protect Yourself from the Coronavirus

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed. That said, everyone should:

Wash Your Hands

The CDC recommends washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds (with soap and water). This is especially important if you’ve just been in a public place.

If you do not have immediate access to soap and water, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands with the hand sanitizer and rub them together until they’re dry.

Avoid Touching Your Face

Do not touch your mouth, nose, eyes, or other areas of your face with unwashed hands. (If you’re out and about wearing protective gloves, do not touch your face with the gloves.)

Avoid Close Contact

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. That means if your friend, family member, or coworker are sick, do not come into contact with them (if possible) until they are cleared as no longer sick by a medical professional.

Stay Home

Many of us around the world are staying home, and that is just as important here in the United States as it is everywhere else.

If your government (country, state, county, or city) has an active “stay-at-home” order, observe it. The stay-at-home order is meant to help keep large populations safe and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Before venturing outside again, find out what constitutes “essential” travel in your area and whether or not there are other restrictions on travel.

Practice Social Distancing

The current recommendation for social distancing is 6 feet (~2 meters). If you have to go to the grocery store, pet store, healthcare facility, or anywhere else, do your best to keep 6 feet of space between yourself and others. This is especially important if you are at a higher risk of getting very sick from the virus.

According to the CDC, “Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.”

Symptoms of COVID-19

The primary symptoms of the coronavirus are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Emergency warning signs that warrant immediate medical attention are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Since we are still learning more about COVID-19, this list of emergency warning signs is not all-inclusive. If you have other symptoms that are severe or concerning, you should consult your doctor immediately.

What to Do If You Are Sick

If you are or may be sick, practice these steps to help minimize your chances of spreading the virus:

Stay Home

Unless you’re going out to get medical care, stay home.

According to the CDC, “Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care.”

If you need groceries or other household essentials while you’re sick, have them delivered to your home instead of going into stores.

Call Your Doctor & Monitor Your Symptoms

Call your doctor before going into their office. If you have or may have COVID-19, make sure to tell your doctor that over the phone. If your symptoms worsen or change (without improving) since the last time you spoke with your doctor, call and let them know.

That said, if you think you’re in need of emergency care, do not wait to get medical care. Call your doctor or nearest hospital immediately and tell them your symptoms. They will advise you on what to do next.

Avoid Public Areas & Public Transportation

In addition to staying inside—apart from visiting your doctor—avoid public spaces and public transportation. That means no stores, no buses, no subways, no ride-sharing, and certainly no airplanes.

Practice Self-Isolation

If you live with others, stay away from them as much as possible. If you are able to, stay in a designated “sick room” and use a separate bathroom.

Cover Your Coughs and Sneezes & Wash Your Hands Often

If you have to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Immediately throw used tissues in the garbage and wash your hands (and elbow, if you used that instead) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Do Not Share Personal Items

If you or a loved one are sick, do not share:

  • Dishes
  • Drinking glasses
  • Cups
  • Eating utensils
  • Towels
  • Bedding
  • Blankets

Make sure to thoroughly wash all of these items with soap and water or put them in the dishwasher after each use.

Clean & Disinfect

Any surface that you or others in your household regularly touch should be cleaned and disinfected every day. That means:

  • Phones
  • Tablets
  • Computers (including keyboards, mice, trackpads, etc.)
  • Charging cables
  • Light switches
  • Doorknobs
  • Handles
  • Tables
  • Countertops
  • Desks
  • Faucets
  • Sinks
  • Toilets
  • Remote Controls
  • Bedside Tables
  • Et. cetera

You can find the CDC’s guide for effectively cleaning and disinfecting your home here.

Wear a Face Mask

If you are sick, you should wear a face mask when you go to your doctor or are around other people (even if you live in the same home).

If you are unable to wear a face mask because it makes it difficult to breathe, be sure to cough and sneeze into a tissue or your arm and avoid close contact with others who are not wearing a face mask.

NOTE: If you are NOT sick, you do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick or work in the medical field. Face masks are in short supply right now, so we need to do our best as a nation to save them for medical professionals who truly need them.

FAQs About the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is the coronavirus?

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. It was named COVID-19: CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease, and 19 for 2019 (when it first appeared).

How does the coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 is currently believed to spread through respiratory droplets, which are produced when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. These respiratory droplets can land in the noses or mouths of other people nearby. They may also be inhaled into the lungs.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

Coronavirus symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

Who is at higher risk for severe illness?

Those at a higher risk of severe illness or complications are:

  • Older adults (65 years and older)
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People with diabetes
  • People with moderate to severe asthma
  • People with serious heart conditions
  • People with liver disease
  • People with a kidney disease and who are undergoing dialysis
  • People with HIV
  • People with other conditions that can cause them to be immunocompromised (including but not limited to cancer treatment and smoking)
  • People who are severely obese (BMI of 40 or higher)

It is not yet known if pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and infants are at a higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19.

Is there a vaccine for the coronavirus?

Unfortunately, no—there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid exposure.

Should I be worried about my pets getting sick or carrying the virus?

No. At this time, the CDC advises that there is no need to worry about your pets catching COVID-19 or carrying it. For more information about COVID-19 and pets, visit the CDC’s page COVID-19 and Animals.

Do I really have to stay home if I’m not sick?

If there is a stay-at-home order where you live, YES, you really have to stay home if you are not performing an “essential” task. (Check with your local government to find out what tasks are considered “essential” in your area.)

If there is no stay-at-home order in your area, it is still advisable for you to stay home and avoid public spaces as much as possible until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. After all, you never know who may be sick, and this virus has proven that it can spread very quickly from person to person.

I have COVID-19 and am practicing at-home isolation. When can I leave my home?

The CDC recommends that people with COVID-19 practicing home isolation do not leave their home until these three conditions have been met:

  1. You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
  2. AND other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
  3. AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared

If you are going to be tested to determine if you are still contagious, you can leave your home after these three conditions have been met:

  1. You no longer have a fever (without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
  2. AND other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved)
  3. AND you received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart

Your doctor will follow the CDC’s guidelines for treating patients with COVID-19. If they recommend that you stay at home longer, follow their guidance. They are advising you based on what’s best for your recovery and the overall health and safety of the community you live in.