The COVID-19 pandemic has created a dynamic situation that changes daily, each day bringing new scientific data that may lead to improved diagnosis and prevention strategies. Here’s the latest information about the virus and testing.
About the Virus
What is COVID-19 and where did it originate?
First identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, COVID-19 is a new disease, or novel coronavirus, that has not previously been seen in humans. The first infections have been traced to a live animal market, and COVID-19 is believed to have been originated in bats.
There are multiple types of coronaviruses that spread from animals to humans, including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is the name that has been given to the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).
How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus is now spreading from human to human by respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others, usually within six feet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that these patients be isolated in either a hospital or home environment (depending on illness severity) until they are better and are no longer at risk of infecting others.
To a lesser extent, COVID-19 can be spread from touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching one’s face.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms typically appear within 2 to 14 days after infection, and include:
- Muscle pain
- New loss of taste or smell
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
According to the CDC, if you develop any of the following symptoms – trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face – seek medical attention immediately.
Is there a vaccine to prevent COVID-19?
There are no preventive vaccines for this new virus. Because treatment is limited, prevention is a key strategy to address the outbreak.
What’s the difference between the flu and COVID-19?
Both seasonal influenza and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, including fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. Both viruses can cause a range of diseases from mild to severe and are at times fatal, especially in individuals with underlying health conditions. Seasonal influenza can be treated with antivirals, such as Tamiflu, in conjunction with additional supportive care. There's currently no preventive vaccines for COVID-19 but some antivirals are in use.
Protect Yourself: Wash Your Hands
Washing hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community – from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.
Follow these five steps, every time:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Get your influenza vaccine.