Coronavirus Q&A: Ask an ID Care Expert
Each day, news about COVID-19 seems to change. And with misinformation muddying the waters even further, it can be difficult to sort fact from fiction. To provide some clarity, ID Care’s Dr. Ronald Nahass, MD, MHCM, answers your most pressing questions about the novel coronavirus.
What is a novel coronavirus?
The word novel means “new.” A novel coronavirus is a variation that hasn’t yet been identified.
Many coronaviruses commonly circulate among humans, causing illnesses like the common cold. However, the virus that’s causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a brand-new strain. This means healthcare providers are still working on how to best care for patients and develop treatments.
How serious is COVID-19?
The affects of COVID-19 vary from patient to patient. Some will remain asymptomatic, which means they will not experience any symptoms at all. The vast majority of affected individuals experience mild to severe symptoms that are comparable to an average respiratory illness. Some patients in this group will require hospitalization.
A minority of patients will develop pneumonia and/or very severe symptoms, and these individuals often require treatment in an intensive care unit. Members of this group are more likely to pass away due to coronavirus, and while they represent just a portion of cases, their experience reveals the critical need to limit the disease’s spread.
It’s important to note that healthcare experts are still working hard to understand COVID-19 and learning more each day. As more information becomes available, they can better assess the real impact of the virus and what those affected can expect.
How does the virus spread?
COVID-19 was originally detected in China’s Hubei Province within Wuhan City, where it spread from an animal to a human host at a live animal market. Once the virus enters the human body, it enters the cells and hijacks their functions before spreading to other cells, infecting and destroying them. You can learn more about this process in the video below:
Medical Animation provided by Scientific Animations
Today, the virus continues to spread from person to person. The novel coronavirus appears to spread easily within affected geographic regions for extended periods of time, often described as community spread.
At this time, experts believe the virus is primarily spread during close contact (about 6 feet) with infected individuals via respiratory droplets. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, these droplets can land in the noses and mouths of those nearby or be inhaled through the lungs. Those who exhibit symptoms are believed to be the most contagious, but the virus may also be spread by those who do not yet have symptoms.
It may also be possible for people to become infected after touching a surface that has the COVID-19 virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this not believed to be the primary way the virus spreads.
At this time, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via food. However, you should always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable, before eating. Additionally, it is recommended that anyone preparing food at home or commercially follow all general rules for food safety.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste or smell
- Body aches
- Nasal congestion
These symptoms typically develop within 2 to 14 days after exposure and require medical attention. If you experience trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, extreme fatigue, and/or blue lips and/or face, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Who is most at risk?
Those who are the most at risk for contracting COVID-19 include:
- Healthcare providers
- Those living in areas where ongoing community spread is high
- Those in close contact with affected individuals
- Travelers returning from affected locations
Based on preliminary findings, the following groups are considered the most at risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19:
- Adults age 65 and over
- People with chronic medical conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
It is important to note, however, that serious complications are presenting in a much wider age range than previously noted. Patients of any age can experience severe complications, including young adults.
Based on the available evidence, children don’t seem to be at an elevated risk for COVID-19. To date, adults make up most known cases.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
At this time, many workplaces and schools have closed to minimize the spread of COVID-19. If you have symptoms, it is even more important for you to remain at home.
You should also contact your doctor before trying to visit their office. In many cases, you will be asked to stay home or postpone your visit to prevent the spread of the virus. Be sure to follow all instructions from your doctor.
You may also need to be tested for COVID-19, although not everyone will require this step. Contact your state and/or local health department and your physician to determine if you should be tested. Keep in mind that testing is not widely available at this time and your doctor/local health department may not recommend you receive testing. Whether tested or not, most affected individuals will experience mild symptoms that can be treated at home.
Do I need to self-isolate or social distance if I’m not in a high-risk group?
Yes. Even if you’re not at risk for serious complications, you could spread COVID-19 to at-risk individuals.
While data is still evolving, preliminary findings suggest that areas where stay-at-home orders are issued earlier experience a more manageable spread of the virus. Additionally, historical data drawn from the 1918 influenza epidemic reveals a significantly slower spread and lower mortality rate in cities that enacted social distancing efforts.
COVID-19 will continue to spread until a safe, effective vaccine and other treatments are developed. In the meantime, social distancing helps slow this spread and reduce strain on the healthcare resources needed to care for the seriously ill.
Should I wear a mask?
At this time, the CDC does not recommend the use of a facemask to protect against COVID-19. Only specific facemasks prevent the transmission of the virus, and these should be used only by:
- Healthcare providers
- Those infected with COVID-19 and showing symptoms
- People caring for individuals infected with COVID-19 in close settings, such as at home or in healthcare facilities
There is no general consensus about the use of masks within the scientific community. Some experts suggest masks could have some benefit in reducing transmission, while others argue that they may create a false sense of security. The best way to determine if you should wear a facemask at this time is to consult with your healthcare provider.
I heard that some existing drugs can treat COVID-19. Is that true?
There is currently no known vaccination or treatment for COVID-19. Those affected may be prescribed medicines to reduce symptoms like fever and cough. If you have any questions, contact your healthcare provider.
Why have businesses and schools closed?
Schools and businesses put people into close contact. Even a single infected person could potentially transmit COVID-19 to many coworkers or classmates, who could then expose others. This increases strain on healthcare providers and resources. By staying home, we can help reduce new cases and make sure those who need care most receive it.
How is travel affected by COVID-19?
The CDC recommends avoiding all nonessential travel at this time. Initially, the travel restrictions were directed toward certain countries. At this point, widespread infection throughout the world and in the USA has made focused restrictions less valuable. In fact, there is currently a travel advisory for the NY/NJ metro area. Some overseas countries now have restrictions on travel to their country from the USA because of our widespread infection rates.
If you must travel, practice good hygiene and preventive measures on your trip. If you feel sick or suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, stay home and do your part to flatten the curve.
For the latest information and travel advisories, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 travel resources.
When will this outbreak end?
Researchers don’t know when the COVID-19 pandemic will end. By practicing social distancing and good personal hygiene, you can do your part to quicken its end. For up-to-date information, visit:
How can I protect myself and my loved ones?
There are many ways you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19. These include:
- Stay home whenever possible
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Avoid touching your face
- Clean your hands often with water and soap
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds at a time
- Use hand sanitizer with a minimum alcohol content of 65% when soap and water are unavailable
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, including doorknobs, light switches, and counters, using gloves and an EPA-registered household disinfectant with at least 70% alcohol content
- Wash clothing and children’s toys regularly
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others
Unless you are a healthcare provider or caring for a sick person at home, facemasks are not necessary. Avoid using them unless needed to conserve the supply available to medical personnel.
Help Flatten the Curve
At ID Care, the health of New Jersey residents has long been our top priority. Now, our mission extends to patients across the country. Help us flatten the pandemic curve by staying home, practicing good personal hygiene, and sharing accurate COVID-19 information. If you have any questions, contact ID Care by calling 908-281-0221 today.