What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness originating in Wuhan, China, that is part of a large family of coronaviruses. Several different varieties of coronaviruses have previously been identified, but COVID-19 had not been identified until the 2019 outbreak. COVID-19's official name is "coronavirus disease 2019," which was abbreviated to COVID-19. It was previously known as "2019 novel coronavirus" or "2019-nCoV."
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person via "community spread," meaning that those infected with the virus can spread it to others if they are within six (6) feet of each other. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets from sneezes, coughs, etc., but touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching surfaces that an infected individual has touched may also cause infection.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The symptoms of COVID-19 resemble cold and flu symptoms, with the most common symptoms being fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Severe cases may cause pneumonia, multi-organ failure, and death.
Who can be infected with COVID-19?
Anyone who comes in contact with the virus itself or another person who has the virus can become infected. Older adults and those with severe underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and other severe conditions are at higher risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19, however anyone who contracts COVID-19 can potentially be at serious risk.
How can I protect myself and others against COVID-19?
The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to avoid it. Obeying stay-at-home orders and only going out if absolutely necessary (i.e. to buy food, medicine, and other essentials) can protect you from being infected with COVID-19 and can prevent it from being spread to others. Avoid close contact with others, especially if they are sick, and practice social distancing when in public. To effectively social distance, you must keep at least six (6) feet between yourself and others to minimize the risk of infection. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after going somewhere in public, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if you cannot wash your hands. Avoid touching your face if you have not washed your hands, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid touching high-contact surfaces, such as counters, rails, doorknobs, light switches, etc., especially in public. Clean and disinfect high-contact surfaces in your home.
You can protect others by staying home unless necessary, and by social distancing if you must go anywhere in public. Do not leave your home if you are feeling sick. Cover your mouth and nose with either a tissue or the inside of your elbow when you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands immediately after coughing or sneezing, or use hand sanitizer if you cannot wash your hands. Wear a face mask when around other people and when entering a medical facility or healthcare provider's office. If you cannot wear a face mask, cover your sneezes and coughs, and encourage others to wear face masks when they are around you. You do not need to wear a face mask if you are not sick. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, light switches, faucets, sinks, etc. If a surface is dirty, clean it with soap before disinfecting it.
See the Safety Resources page for information about making your own face covering, properly sanitizing surfaces, etc.
How can I tell the difference between COVID-19 symptoms and cold or flu symptoms?
COVID-19, the flu, the common cold, and allergies have similar symptoms. The infographic to the right can help distinguish between these symptoms. If you think you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider.
Image source: University of Alabama at Birmingham
How can I protect my mental health during this stressful time?
The stress and uncertainty that COVID-19 is causing can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety. These effects can impact anyone and should be taken seriously, as mental health is just as important as physical health. Stressors like this can be combated in a number of different ways. The CDC recommends taking breaks from consuming news and media about the outbreak, maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, connecting with others, and giving yourself time to relax. It is also important that if you are going to share information about the virus, that it is actually true. Misinformation can lead to panic, poor protective measures, and increased stress for everyone. See the Safety Resources page for more information about taking care of your mental health and sharing accurate information.