WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people.
HOW DOES THE VIRUS SPREAD?
This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so.
The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) . Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from one to another. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why the CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.
How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.
In several cohorts of hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19, the median age ranged from 49 to 56 years [33-35]. In a report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention that included approximately 44,500 confirmed infections, 87 percent of patients were between 30 and 79 years old . Older age was also associated with increased mortality, with a case fatality rate of 8 and 15 percent among those aged 70 to 79 years and 80 years or older, respectively.
In the United States, 2449 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between February 12 and March 16, 2020, had age, hospitalization, and intensive care unit (ICU) information available ; 67 percent of cases were diagnosed in those aged ≥45 years, and, similar to findings from China, mortality was highest among older individuals, with 80 percent of deaths occurring in those aged ≥65 years.
DOES IT AFFECT CHILDREN?
Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date. Symptomatic infection in children appears to be uncommon; when it occurs, it is usually mild, although severe cases have been reported . In the large Chinese report described above, only 2 percent of infections were in individuals younger than 20 years old . Similarly, in South Korea, only 6.3 percent of nearly 8000 infections were in those younger than 20 years old . In a small study of 10 children in China, clinical illness was mild; 8 had a fever, which resolved within 24 hours, 6 had a cough, 4 had a sore throat, 4 had evidence of focal pneumonia on CT, and none required supplemental oxygen . In another study of six children aged 1 to 7 years who were hospitalized in Wuhan with COVID-19, all had fever >102.2°F/39°C and cough, four had imaging evidence of viral pneumonia, and one was admitted to the intensive care unit; all children recovered .
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?
Some people infected with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include low-grade fever, body aches, coughing, nasal congestion, and sore throat. However, COVID-19 can occasionally cause more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.
Shortness of breath refers to unexpectedly feeling out of breath, or winded. But when should you worry about shortness of breath? There are many examples of temporary shortness of breath that are not worrisome. For example, if you feel very anxious, it’s common to get short of breath and then it goes away when you calm down.
However, if you find that you are ever breathing harder or having trouble getting air each time you exert yourself, you always need to call your doctor. That was true before we had the recent outbreak of COVID-19, and it will still be true after it is over.
Meanwhile, it’s important to remember that if shortness of breath is your only symptom, without a cough or fever, something other than COVID-19 is the likely problem. Those with existing health conditions or compromised immunity should take extra precautions to remain vigilant of symptoms and take preventive measures.
HOW TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS:
For your protection and safety, please continue to follow everyday best practices to help prevent and slow the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
1 – Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
2 – If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% isopropyl alcohol.
3 – Avoid close contact with people who are coughing/sneezing.
4 – Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
5 – Stay home when you are sick.
6 – Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
7 – Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
8 – Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
9 – Keep a safe distance of 6 feet with others around you while you are out.
And remember! Only together we can help the spread of this pandemic.