The U.S. has declared a national emergency concerning the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and has taken measures to prevent its spread within our nation. First detected in China in December of 2019, the coronavirus COVID-19 has now spread globally. On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized this outbreak as a global pandemic.
In regard to the state of Pennsylvania, the PA Department of Health (DOH) has reported 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania as of March 16, 2020. As our nation and state attempt to contain and combat COVID-19, it is important to understand the facts and fluidity of this virus. Below are answers provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to commonly asked questions surrounding COVID-19.
What is the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)?
The 2019 novel coronavirus is a new virus that causes respiratory illness and can spread from person-to person.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms may appear from two to 14 days after exposure. Confirmed cases have had symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Can you catch the virus from touching surfaces?
The CDC reports that it may be possible to contract COVID-19 if you touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose or possibly eyes. The CDC also reports, however, that this is not the main cause of spreading the virus.
Clean frequently touched surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, and sinks with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, following label instructions.
Who is at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID 19?
- Older adults
- People who have chronic medical conditions like
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
No, there is currently not a vaccine. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions.
What can you do to protect yourself and your family from coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)?
Everyday preventative actions, as set out by the CDC, to prevent respiratory illnesses are:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick (no less than a distance of six feet).
- Stay home if you feel sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow (not your hands).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hand often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water (contains at least 60% alcohol).
- Avoid non-essential travel.
Are masks effective in preventing the infection or spread of COVID-19?
According to WHO, masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly. For more information from WHO on the proper use of masks and their effectiveness regarding COVID-19 click here.
Additional Resources for Information Regarding the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19):
- COVID 19 Overview
- For high-risk individuals
- What to do if you are sick
- Current cases and latest updates
- Schools, workplaces, and community centers
- For healthcare professionals