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What you need to know about COVID-19 infections

  • This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.

Mayo Clinic News Network
Published: 3/2/2020 4:16:28 PM
Modified: 3/2/2020 5:31:31 PM

Many of these answers — compiled by the Mayo Clinic News Network — reference statements and standards already communicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definitive source for prevention and procedure for infectious diseases in the United States. Click here for the CDC webpage on COVID-19. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services also has a COVID-19 informational webpage here

What exactly is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a newly identified airborne virus in the corona viral family, but it is more severe and spreads easily. Diagnosis is difficult because it shares several symptoms with influenza. 

The CDC lists symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath.

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

COVID-19 is thought to spread similarly to influenza. That is, it spreads person to person through respiratory droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby — typically within 6 feet — or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can I catch COVID-19 from contact with an object rather than a person?

Yes, you can catch COVID-19 from an object if the surface of that object has live virus on it. How long the virus can live outside an organism is unknown. Expert estimates range from a few hours to up to nine days, depending on the type of surface, surrounding temperature and environment.

Can a person have COVID-19 without having symptoms?

Yes.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health is developing a vaccine, but it will not be ready and approved for use for at least a year or more.

What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your local health care provider or hospital and ask how best to be evaluated. Do not visit your health care provider or hospital without calling first.

How is a patient treated for COVID-19?

The basic premise of preventing disease transmission is to identify patients who show symptoms, isolate those patients from others for appropriate assessment and inform appropriate staff and authorities for further response. If people appear with symptoms, they will be asked to wear a mask and answer a series of questions about their health and travel. Based on their answers and vital signs, they will be isolated from other patients while COVID-19 test results can be verified. This may take several days.

Patients who test positive for COVID-19 are isolated and treated. Currently, there is no antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Specific interventions are taken in more severe cases, or with patients with compromised immune systems or complex illnesses.

What can I do to avoid COVID-19?

To avoid COVID-19, you should:

— Keep your hands clean.

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

— Cover your cough and sneezes to keep germs from spreading to others.

— Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces routinely.

— Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

— Stay home when you are sick.

Should I wear a face mask?

Regarding whether you should wear a face mask, the CDC provides this guidance:

CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a health care professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).




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