What is COVID-19 (2019 novel coronavirus)?
A novel (new) coronavirus is one not previously identified in humans. COVID-19 (also called 2019 novel coronavirus and 2019-nCoV) is not the same as other coronaviruses that cause mild illness, such as the common cold. The virus was first noted in the Wuhan province in China in November 2019 and has since spread around the world, causing a pandemic.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Cases can range from mild to deadly, and some infected people may have no symptoms at all.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
COVID-19 can easily spread to others by person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets in the air, produced when an infected patient coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses or inhaled into the lungs of people who are nearby (within 6 feet/2 meters).
COVID-19 is not transmitted through blood and there is no evidence it is spread through food.
The COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for up to 3 days. It may be possible for COVID-19 to be transmitted from touching a surface or object that has the virus on it (for example, if an infected person coughs or sneezes on a surface) and then another person touches that surface and then touches the mouth, nose, or eyes. But person-to-person contact is the primary way the virus spreads.
How does washing hands help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Soap doesn't just rinse the virus off your hands and send it down the drain – it actually breaks down the virus walls, destroying the virus and rendering it ineffective. It is recommended you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, because it takes at least 20 seconds for the virus walls to break down. Any kind of soap will do; you do not need antibacterial soap (antibacterial agents kill bacteria; COVID-19 is a virus).
If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, however, soap and water are the best option.
Why should I avoid touching my face?
COVID-19, like other viruses, enters the body through the mouth, nose, and eyes and the virus may be present on your hands from things you have touched. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before touching your face to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Who in the general public needs to wear a face mask when out in public places?
The current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines recommends everyone wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But keep in mind: The mask keeps you from SPREADING the virus; right now, there is no evidence that shows it keeps you from GETTING the virus. Wearing a mask will not necessarily protect you from infection. However, since many people are asymptomatic carriers, and people can shed virus before developing symptoms, a person may have it and not know. Everyone should all act as if we all have the virus and take steps to prevent spreading it to others.
What kind of face mask do I need to wear?
If you wear a mask you can prevent a lot of the spread of COVID-19. The CDC currently does NOT recommend the use of medical-grade N95 or surgical masks for the general public. They should be reserved for the medical professionals who need them.
Plain old DIY homemade masks of regular fabric with 4 layers of paper towels block about 95%.
What is "social distancing?"
Because COVID-19 spreads so easily from person-to-person "social distancing" is recommended to help prevent the spread of the virus. This really means physical distancing from others. The CDC recommends staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people. Also, avoid public places and mass gatherings. Working from home is an example of social distancing. Social distancing can mean any activity where you avoid close physical contact with others.
How do I disinfect surfaces?
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, you should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Frequently touched surfaces may include phones, keyboards, light switches, doorknobs, handles, countertops, tables, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
To disinfect you can use EPA-registered household disinfectants appropriate for the surface you are cleaning, a diluted bleach mixture (1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water OR 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water), or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.
What are the best ways to prevent getting infected with COVID-19?
The best way to prevent infection with COVID-19 is to avoid exposure.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after touching anything or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands.
- Stay home and limit close contact with other people.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
How can I prevent spreading COVID-19 to others?
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19:
- Stay home if you're sick, and only leave the house if you need medical care
- Wear a face mask when around others
- Keep a minimum distance of 6 feet (2 meters)
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching anything or after coughing or sneezing, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Throw away used tissues.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
Images provided by:
CDC. Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Washington Post. Memos from CDC to White House Lay Out Rationale for Possible Widespread Use of Face Coverings
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