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GardenSMART :: What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus or COVID-19

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus or COVID-19

Images courtesy of MDVIP

By now, you’re probably more familiar with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) than you really want to be. Between panic on social media, shelves stripped of hand sanitizer at Big Box stores and constant news coverage, there’s a lot to take in.

So, what do you need to know and how can you stay safe? We’ve compiled information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other prominent medical sources for this article.

Here’s the latest (information about COVID-19 changes quickly; for the latest updates, visit our COVID-19 resource center).

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Should I Be Concerned?

For the general American public, who are unlikely to have been exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low, according to the CDC. This could change, however, which is why you should stay watchful and take basic precautionary measures.

Many cases in the United States are imported – people who have traveled to or been in close contact with those who traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. But now there is also community spread in several states in the U.S., including New York, California and Washington.

More than 500 cases are being reported in multiple states, but that’s still far below seasonal flu levels, with which you are much more likely to become infected.

What Are Its Symptoms?

COVID-19 has three main symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms vary in individuals, and unfortunately, they have ranged from mild to severe, including death. 

How Does It Spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably, according to the CDC. Right now, much of what is known about how the coronavirus spreads is based on similar viruses. The virus is thought to be spread from person to person through:

  • Droplets that are emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • These droplets can enter the mouth or noses of people nearby and then be inhaled into their lungs. 

It’s possible the virus also spreads on surfaces, when people come in contact with virus on a surface and then touch their mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This hasn’t been confirmed.

According to the CDC, people are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest. But some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. Spread in asymptomatic patients is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. 

How Is It Treated?

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19 yet. If you become infected, you should still seek medical treatment to help relieve symptoms, according to the CDC. Medical care also can help prevent/control secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia.

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What Can I Do To Protect Myself?

Unfortunately, to date there is no vaccine to prevent the coronavirus or COVID-19. Your best bet to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. Here are some tips from the CDC:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Stay home if you're sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue and then throw the tissue away.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (learn more about hand hygiene). Do this before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

The CDC is recommending that adults 60 and older and those who have chronic conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease stay at home as much as possible. “When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often; avoid crowds,” the CDC recommends.

Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. Early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness, the CDC says. 

What About Facemasks? 

The CDC says that well people should not wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks, however, should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. Facemasks are also important for health workers and people taking care of someone in close settings, specifically N95 filtering facepiece respirators.

If I Become Sick, What Should I Do?

If you become sick, stay home, just as you would with any respiratory illness like the flu or a cold, and get in touch with your primary care doctor. If you have symptoms like nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, cough, painful swallowing or other symptoms generally associated with respiratory illnesses, it’s a good chance this is the flu or cold.

What About Travel?

Whether you are thinking about taking a trip abroad or have plans to visit another country, review the current travel restrictions on the CDC’s website.

The CDC recommends travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise ship travel worldwide. Cruise ship passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

You should avoid all nonessential travel to Italy, Iran, China and South Korea, according to the CDC.

For travel to Japan, use enhanced precautions, including avoiding sick people and washing hands with soap and water often. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel to those countries.

MDVIP is a national network of primary care doctors who see fewer patients and have time to focus on preventive care and offer conveniences like same- and next-day appointments not typically found in most primary care practices.

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