Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause respiratory illness in humans. They get their name, “corona,” from the many crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the common cold are examples of coronaviruses that cause illness in humans.
The new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The virus has since spread to all continents (except Antarctica).
How does the new coronavirus (COVID-19) spread from person to person?
COVID-19 is likely spread:
- When the virus travels in respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings or breathes near you (within six feet). This is thought to be the main way COVID-19 is spread.
- When the virus travels in small respiratory droplets that linger in the air for minutes to hours from an infected person who is more than six feet away or has since left the space. This method of spread is more likely to occur in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.
- From close contact (touching, shaking hands) with an infected person.
- By touching surfaces that the virus has landed on, then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing your hands. (Not thought to spread easily by this method.)
- COVID-19 enters your body through your mouth, nose or eyes (directly from the airborne droplets or from transfer of the virus from your hands to your face). The virus travels to the back of your nasal passages and mucous membrane in the back of your throat. It attaches to cells there, begins to multiply and moves into lung tissue. From there, the virus can spread to other body tissues
How long is a person infected with COVID-19 considered contagious?
People infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others before experiencing symptoms themselves (while people are still “asymptomatic”). Once you do have symptoms, the CDC says you are no longer contagious 10 days after your symptoms began.
Until everything about COVID-19 is fully understood, the best advice from healthcare providers to remain safe is to:
- Stay six feet away from others whenever possible.
- Wear a cloth mask that covers your mouth and nose when around others.
- Wash your hands often. If soap is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid crowded indoor spaces. Bring in outdoor air as much as possible.
- Stay self-isolated at home if you are feeling ill with symptoms that could be COVID-19 or have a positive test for COVID-19.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
How soon after becoming infected with COVID-19 will I develop symptoms?
This so-called “incubation period,” the time between becoming infected and showing symptoms, can range from 2 to 14 days. The average time before experiencing symptoms is five days. Symptoms can range in severity from very mild to severe. In about 80% of patients, COVID-19 causes only mild symptoms.
Who is most at risk for getting COVID-19?
Persons at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 are:
- People who live in or have recently traveled to any area with ongoing active spread.
- People who have had close contact with a person who has a laboratory-confirmed or a suspected case of the COVID-19 virus. Close contact is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
- People over age 60 who have pre-existing medical conditions (diabetes, chronic heart or lung disease) or a weakened immune system.
What are the symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection?
The CDC says you may have coronavirus if you have these symptoms or combination of symptoms:
- Fever or chills.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Muscle or body aches.
- New loss of taste or smell.
- Sore throat.
- Congestion or runny nose.
- Nausea or vomiting.
Additional symptoms are possible.
Symptoms may appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure to the virus. Children have similar, but usually milder, symptoms than adults. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk of more serious complication from COVID-19.
Call 911 and get immediate medical attention if you have these warning signs:
- Trouble breathing.
- Persistent pain or pressure in your chest.
- New confusion.
- Inability to arouse (wake up from sleep).
- Bluish lips or face.
This list does not include all possible symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned you may coronavirus, have other symptoms or have any severe symptoms.
At TruDoc Medical we are equipped to test our patients for COVID-19 on site. If you believe you have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 infection do not hesitate to call our office for further advice.
Information in this article is provided through The Cleveland Clinic Foundation