Last Updated: Wednesday April 8th 2020, 10:28 EST.
Here at Healthy Enough, it’s always been our goal to offer you ‘no-nonsense’ advice for practical health and fitness. This approach is more important than ever given the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The facts – as always – reign supreme. Given this, we would like to set you up with some straight answers to 11 of the most pressing questions you might have about the current state of the illness.
Of course, the situation related to this illness continues to change daily. As such, we will do our best to continually update the information here as more facts become available.
11 Important Answers to Your Coronavirus (COVID-19) Questions
Understandably, there’s an onslaught of information you can find regarding the so-called ‘coronavirus.’ Therefore, we feel it’s important to present a clear set of answers to several important questions you may be asking.
Sourced from reputable professionals and experts, these questions tackle the basics of the illness, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. Let’s start with an explanation of the illness itself.
1. What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the official World Health Organization (WHO) name for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 – throughout this article, we’ll simply call it “coronavirus.”
It’s a respiratory illness brought on by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), that can cause mild to fatal symptoms. To avoid confusion with the 2003 SARS outbreak, the WHO has refrained from using this term to communicate about the current illness.
While the common human coronavirus is already known about, the current strain we’re dealing with is potentially zoonotic in origin. This means until now it was found primarily in animals.
A virus mutation enabled it to transfer to humans and be spread through the population. Since we have not previously had exposure to this strain of the virus, it’s known as ’novel’. As such, we don’t have any prior immunity to it even though our bodies have likely encountered the human variant at some point.
2. How is Coronavirus Spread?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that while they are still learning more about how the coronavirus disease spreads, they have several key indicators to note:
- Proximity: The illness can be spread from person-to-person within a six-foot radius.
- Respiratory droplets: Droplets created when someone sneezes or coughs can infect another person who gets them in their nose or mouth.
Researchers and health professionals are still monitoring other forms of how the disease spreads. However, as of yet, no other form of potential spreading has been identified that’s more dominant or probable than the two listed above.
Another aspect of the illness is ’community spread’. This is essentially when some people in a given region become infected without understanding whether they’ve had any known contact with an infected person, or traveled to a region with known positive cases.
In the United States, all 50 states and five territories have reported cases at this time. Out of those, the CDC suspects community spread in all of them.
3. What Are the Typical Symptoms of Coronavirus?
There are several verified symptoms to be aware of, and the effect on an individual has been from mild to fatal. However, predicting fatality rates in the midst of a pandemic comes with a lot of caveats, according to researchers, which is why we won’t be sharing numbers in this piece.
Symptoms can start anywhere between 2–14 days after exposure and include:
- Fever. This has been one of the main symptoms in people displaying moderate to severe illness. A temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater is what doctors consider to be a ‘fever’.
- Cough. Persistent coughing has been noted as another primary symptom. Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, described the cough to CNN. He noted that it comes from deeper in the respiratory system and doesn’t produce anything, unlike a ‘tickle.’
- Shortness of breath. The third most notable symptom is shortness of breath. According to Harvard Medical School, this manifests as a feeling of being winded or an inability to catch your breath. They do caution that if shortness of breath is your only symptom, it’s likely not caused by the coronavirus disease.
However, the advice is to get shortness of breath assessed by a medical professional in most cases, regardless of whether coronavirus is suspected or not.
4. Should I Seek Treatment if I Think I Have Coronavirus?
Reporting your symptoms to your physician or local health department is advisable as it helps others track the illness. However, health professionals have advised that the majority of patients with coronavirus will be able to recover at home and not need treatment at a medical facility.
Even so, the CDC recommends a specific set of actionable steps if you think you have become ill with coronavirus, including:
- Recover at home. In an effort to reduce the spread of the illness, if you have mild symptoms or suspect you might be sick due to the coronavirus, it’s advised that you stay home and treat your symptoms. This includes hydration and rest.
- Monitor symptoms. Keeping tabs on your symptoms is another recommendation. The CDC recommends you keep in touch with your doctor.
- Self-isolate. Treating yourself at home also means you should self-isolate. This includes staying in one room away from others in your home, if possible. Additionally, in an effort to reduce the spread of the illness, you should not use public transportation or gather in public places.
- Call ahead. Should you require medical attention or develop signs of emergency symptoms, the CDC also recommends calling ahead if possible. Doing so will enable doctors to receive you quickly, while also putting on any appropriate protective gear.
There are exceptions to this, of course. For example, if you have become short of breath and are displaying signs of respiratory distress, you should seek emergency medical care – but try to have someone call ahead first. This is so doctors and nurses can be ready with the appropriate personal protective equipment, and treat you more quickly.
5. What Are the Main Factors That Put People at a Higher Risk of Coronavirus Infection?
As doctors and medical researchers learn more about coronavirus, some information has become more irrefutable. In particular, some underlying health conditions will put people at a higher risk in terms of both their susceptibility and how severe coronavirus will be if they get it.
The CDC has issued a list of conditions for which patients face a much higher fatality rate than is usual, including:
- Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- Serious heart conditions
- Conditions causing a person to be immunocompromised
- Severe obesity
- Chronic kidney disease (including people receiving dialysis)
- Liver disease
People over the age of 65 or anyone living in a nursing home are also considered to be in a ‘high risk’ category. Consequently, social distancing measures are recommended for everyone, regardless of age or medical condition, as the most effective way to slow the rate of disease transmission among all populations.
6. Should I Wear a Face Mask in Public Even If I Don’t Have Symptoms?
The current recommendations regarding face masks from both the United States government and the CDC is that you should wear a face covering in public. This is especially true in situations where social distancing might be more problematic.
Wearing masks has become even more important in regions where there is evidence of higher rates of community spread. In addition to the new recommendations, the CDC also suggests that face masks be worn in two other situations, including:
- If you are caring for someone infected with coronavirus.
- If you are symptomatic and need to go out in public to receive medical care.
The CDC and the White House announced these new recommendations on 3 April 2020. This is in light of evidence that asymptomatic transmission rates might be a larger driver of cases than previously thought. Instructions for how to create your own cloth face mask at home are available on the CDC website.
However, national health advisors emphasize that keeping a distance of six feet from others and practicing strict ’social distancing’ are still likely the most helpful measures used in preventing transmission.
7. What Is Social Distancing and How Do I Do It?
According to Johns Hopkins, social distancing means intentionally reducing your interaction with others, especially in large groups. In many cases, this might mean making arrangements to work from home or postpone events and gatherings.
By now you’ve likely heard the term used in reference to how to stop the spread of coronavirus. While different countries and regions around the world are issuing different variations to their citizens, the basics of the recommendations are the same.
Some examples of social distancing include:
- Canceling school and moving learning to an online environment.
- Limiting capacity at childcare facilities .
- Switching to only carryout or delivery for food establishments.
- Staying six feet away from people not part of your household if you are out in public.
- Closing non-essential businesses.
In addition to observing strict social distancing practices, washing your hands for 20 seconds and avoiding touching your face have all been recommended. Professionals have encouraged these as ways to reduce the spread of the illness.
8. What Is the Official Recommendation for Enjoying Outside Activities During Shelter-in-Place Orders?
In general, national and state-level public health officials have encouraged people to move around and get exercise during the pandemic. While each state is issuing their own versions of shelter-in-place orders, many people are wondering if they’re permitted to be outside.
For this reason, it’s best to check with your state or local health department for guidelines specific to your area. In general, the CDC continues to recommend if you are outside, to maintain good social distancing habits.
Since gyms have been closed in most states, some people have taken to walking or running outside as a way to keep up their exercise regimes. Health officials have even encouraged this as a way for people to manage any increased stress or anxiety they may have during shelter-in-place orders.
9. Can I Catch Coronavirus Without Coming Into Contact With Someone Who Tested Positive?
Unfortunately, the answer to most questions about the transmission of coronavirus is “It depends.” This is because there are many scientific assumptions that have to be met in order to transmit the illness. As the situation is unfolding rapidly, there is not yet enough data available to verify certain scenarios.
However, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has released information regarding the survivability of coronavirus on different surfaces, including:
- Copper: Up to four hours
- Cardboard: Up to 24 hours
- Plastic and stainless steel: Up to 2 to 3 days
In terms of how to treat and clean these surfaces, you can find an official list of cleansing agents issued by The American Chemistry Council, which have been proven to fight coronavirus.
10. How Can I Ascertain Whether Coronavirus Information on Social Media Is Accurate?
Amid the current global pandemic, social media platforms have unsurprisingly become hubs of information for many Americans. In fact, Americans spent 32 percent more time on social media platforms in March than in previous months.
Of course, having access to the most accurate information is of vital importance during any crisis. Even so, finding the truth amidst everything you see online can be difficult.
For the most accurate information, we recommend the following sources:
- The CDC’s Coronavirus Situation Summary
- The World Health Organization’s Coronavirus Updates
- FEMA’s Coronavirus Rumor Control page
You may have also experienced or witnessed the filtering of information on platforms such as Facebook. It’s important to understand how social networks are working to make sure misinformation does not remain available, and also that the system is not always perfect.
With this in mind, it’s recommended to use one of the above sources for the most accurate recommendations and updates.
11. Are There Any Coronavirus Treatments Currently Being Tested?
The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a flurry of medical research as doctors and scientists work toward both safe, viable treatments and a vaccine. As such, the FDA has established the Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP).
Through the program, there are currently ten potential therapies in active trial stages, with 15 more on the way. The FDA is researching treatments such as transfusions using plasma from recovered patients, antiviral medications that are already in circulation, and more.
With this in mind, remember there is currently no FDA-approved treatment for coronavirus that has gone through well-established trials to ensure safety. However, an emergency approval was granted by the FDA pertaining to the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
While these medications have long since been approved for safe use in treating several autoimmune disorders, it’s important to understand they also have known and documented side effects. As always, do not take any prescriptions medications that have not been prescribed to you by a doctor.
How to Stay Informed During the Coronavirus Pandemic
As we all adjust to less physical interaction and new routines, remember that your efforts are all geared towards ending a global health issue. It’s likely new information and recommendations will emerge as researchers collect more data.
The CDC and the WHO remain the most recommended sources of information on coronavirus by local and national health authorities. Additionally, we will work to keep our information updated here as the situation evolves based on input from the experts.
Be safe, wash your hands, and stay informed.