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COVID-19 in a nutshell

Here is a compilation of the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about COVID-19, its symptoms, and steps you should take to protect yourself and your family.

What is coronavirusand COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to more severe viruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV). COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019, and it is considered a “novel” (or new) coronavirus not previously seen in humans. The virus causing COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2.

How does the virus spread?

The primary way the virus spreads is during close person-to-person contact (within 6 feet) via respiratory droplets. These droplets are released into the air when a person coughs or sneezes.

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found the virus that causes COVID-19 “is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces.” The study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, and UCLA and Princeton University scientists. The scientists found that the virus was “detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.” These results suggest that the virus is transmittable “through the air and after touching contaminated objects.”

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The main symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The CDC advises that if you develop symptoms and you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, call your medical provider for advice. People in high-risk groups should call their medical provider early even if they have developed only mild symptoms. High-risk groups include people 65 and over and those who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

If you have emergency warning signs, get medical attention immediately. These include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.

What preventive measures does the CDC recommend?

  • Stay home as much as possible to reduce your risk of being exposed. Limit visitors, especially if you are 65 or over. Avoid discretionary travel.
  • Practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others) when in a public place.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice), especially after leaving a public place or whenever you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • Face masks should be worn by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to prevent disease spread. Health workers and anyone caring for a person with symptoms should also wear a face mask. The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask.

Compiled by Joan Elyesil

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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