Coronaviruses are a common respiratory virus found in most mammals with several different human variants. Coronavirus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including whether and how well it spreads between people and the severity of resulting illness. COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and shows symptoms in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation which has been drawing increasing concern as cases begin to increase.
How bad is the infection?
Majority of infected people develop only mild symptoms, such as a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. With only a small minority developing severe respiratory symptoms, most prevalent in those who have pre-existing health problems. However, no deaths have been reported in children under 9 years old.
How does it spread?
The virus is thought to be transmitted by droplets emitted when people sneeze, cough, and talk. It may also be spread by any close contact between infected individuals. Much like previous coronavirus outbreaks, such as the SARS outbreak in 2002, if you are within 2-3 meters of an infected person you are at risk of being in contact with airborne particulates. Surfaces can be contaminated as well via the same methods, but who exactly is at risk? Anyone can be infected by the virus, but young children and elderly are most likely to become infected.
How can I prevent it?
As of right now there are no known vaccines or medicines to prevent or cure COVID-19, but there are several ways to minimize your risk of contracting this virus.
- Wash hands with soap and water following proper washing techniques.
- Using hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes is a viable alternative after touching surfaces that might be contaminated.
- Avoid contact with individuals who are sick, and stay at home if you become ill.
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes, nose, mouth, or any open wounds.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
How can I protect myself?
Over the last couple of weeks there have been all kinds of products being claimed to protect you ranging from herbal tea to vitamins. There is no conclusive evidence supporting these kinds of claims, only PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has been proven to protect individuals from sources of infection. However, the CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. If you choose to wear PPE you must use the correct level of equipment including; masks, gowns, eye protection, and coveralls.
- Masks: Most common masks, such as surgical masks, will not protect individuals from airborne particulates. Only N95 respirators and those of higher levels offer the necessary protection needed. N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.
- N95 respirators are not designed for children or people with facial hair. Because a proper fit cannot be achieved on children and people with facial hair, the N95 respirator may not provide full protection.
Although, the concern behind COVID-19 is increasing the risk of getting COVID-19 is currently low in the U.S. due to quick actions taken by health authorities. The federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat. The public health response is multi-layered, with the goal of detecting and minimizing introductions of this virus in the United States so as to reduce the spread and the impact of this virus. CDC is operationalizing all of its pandemic preparedness and response plans, working on multiple fronts to meet these goals, including specific measures to prepare communities to respond to local transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.