The new coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused an outbreak of respiratory disease worldwide. According to the CDC, more cases are likely to be identified in the coming days. We know you may have questions, so we've put together some in-depth information that you need to know to keep yourself and those you love.
COVID-19 is a recently discovered coronavirus strain. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that spread to both animal species and humans. The new coronavirus, COVID-19, began to spread rapidly in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.
The symptoms most commonly experienced include: fevers, cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Developing body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion or diarrhea is also possible. In some cases people who are infected will not exhibit any symptoms, though most people experience a mild form of the disease, similar to a cold or flu virus. Certain groups of people may experience more serious illness, including older people (over the age of 65) and those with a history of medical conditions such as decreased immunity, high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease or diabetes. Pregnant women may also be at increased risk for more severe illness due to changes that occur in the immune system while pregnant.
Health officials continue to study the virus to determine how it is spread. Currently there are a few different modes of transmission suggested, based on people who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. This includes human to human transmission via respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, and close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands. The virus can also be spread by contact with a surface or object that has the virus on it, followed by touching one’s own mouth, nose, or eyes.
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When dealing with public health emergencies, stress reactions are expected and very common. Being aware of signs that natural stress is turning into something more like anxiety or depression is an important part of ongoing assessment for both yourself and those under your care. If worrisome thoughts linger or start to interfere with your day to day functioning, it may be something more. Symptoms of anxiety can impact you physically and emotionally so taking care of yourself becomes of the utmost importance. Traumatic events can also make you feel vulnerable, afraid and helpless. Talking about your feelings will reduce stigma and help eliminate barriers to obtaining appropriate medical and mental health services. Schedule an appointment with one of Doctor On Demand’s board certified psychiatrists or licensed psychologists if you have specific concerns or questions about how you are feeling.
If you've had contact with someone with coronavirus, it is important to seek medical evaluation. Your specific risk will depend on the type of contact you had with the individual. A virtual video visit with a doctor can help you to determine your risk and what your next steps are. A "close contact" means being in a confined space with an individual who has the disease, such as in a home, hospital room or classroom. Be sure to take precautions until you seek medical advice to ensure you do not expose others to the illness.
Symptoms of the coronavirus and the flu virus can overlap, so it’s important to understand the facts to seek the right treatment. Both viruses cause fever, cough, body aches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Severe cases of both viruses can lead to pneumonia and can even cause death. The key differences to look out for are known exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with either influenza or COVID-19. In addition, your travel history during the 14 days before your symptoms began is important in differentiating whether your symptoms are likely to be due to the flu versus COVID-19. Both viruses are spread in similar ways through human-to-human respiratory droplets in the air from an infected person coughing, sneezing or talking. Although the viruses have similar symptoms, they are caused by different viruses which means that the antiviral treatment available for the flu does not work for COVID-19. To protect against the spread of the flu, a vaccine is available and effective to prevent and reduce the severity of the flu. For COVID-19, no vaccine is available at this time, but this is something that scientists are working on.
Stay at home. You might consider leaving home in order to seek medical care if your symptoms are severe, otherwise it is important to remain at home. Call before seeking medical care in a clinic or healthcare facility; the staff will be able to give you information on where to go upon arrival to prevent exposing other people to the illness. Getting in touch with a telemedicine clinician for a medical evaluation from your home before going into an office is a great option. A remote doctor visit can be helpful to reduce spread of the illness as well as determining if it is likely that you may have the virus based on your history and whether or not you need a higher level of care, such as a visit to the ER. Isolate yourself. Staying in a room away from other people in your home is an important way to decrease the risk of your family or friends getting exposed to the virus. Use a bathroom that is separate from everyone else in the home if one is available. Is it also recommended to stay away from any pets that live with you. Although there is no known transmission between companion animals (such as dogs or cats) at this time, it is advisable not to be in close proximity to your pets until more is understood about the virus. You should discuss with your healthcare provider when it is okay to be out in public again. Wear a facemask. If you have symptoms suspicious of COVID-19, wear a facemask to prevent spread of the illness both at home and if you go to a medical facility for care. People that live at home with you should also wear a facemask if they are in the same room as you. Gloves can also be used for additional protection from the virus. Follow the same precautions as with any other virus. This includes washing your hands frequently, disinfecting hard surfaces (table tops, door knobs, keyboards, for example), covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding sharing cups or utensils while sick.