The novel coronavirus has taken over the news and our lives. We are currently facing a pandemic of unforeseen scale spreading across the whole world. As of Monday, 20 April, there are 35,383 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, among them 1,611 deaths.
Here, experts weigh in on the most frequently asked coronavirus questions and what you can do to best protect yourself and your loved ones.
What is coronavirus and COVID-19?
The WHO states that coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The current coronavirus—also referred to as a novel (new) coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2—was first detected in 2019, in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China. The name of the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.”
How is coronavirus transmitted?
Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze.
- close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
What are the symptoms?
Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known infectious period for this disease. Symptoms have included:
- difficulty breathing
- pneumonia in both lungs
What are the symptoms in kids specifically?
Limited reports of children with COVID-19 have described mild, cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose and cough. At least one child exhibited gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea). Although severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US state that it’s still unknown whether a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can transmit coronavirus to her fetus or newborn. However, in the limited recent case series of infants born to mothers with COVID-19 published in the peer-reviewed literature, none of the infants have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, virus was not detected in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk.
Who is most at risk?
The following communities have an elevated risk of exposure to the virus:
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19.
- People who are close contacts of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- The immuno-compromised—like people in retirement homes, the elderly, cancer, HIV or COPD/asthma patients, etc.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring.
- Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.
What precautions should I take?
The single most important action anyone can take to protect themselves from COVID-19 is regular hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene.
Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers are flying off the shelves, it’s best to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Avoid high-touch surfaces—other people (handshaking), handrails, etc.—when possible, as well as contact with those who are ill (or appear ill) with respiratory illness, and nursing homes or other health care areas where high risk may be found unless you need to obtain assistance.
All Canadians should think ahead about the actions that they can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, including:
- being prepared in case you or a family member become ill
- following the latest travel advice from federal and provincial public health leaders
- reducing contact with others by following the guidance for quarantine or isolating
- practising physical (social) distancing, proper hygiene and wearing masks, if necessary
- Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. Use delivery services for receiving food, etc.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the bin.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60-95% alcohol.
- Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.
What should I do if I think my child or I have been exposed to coronavirus?
If you or a family member shows symptoms and believes to have been exposed to the virus, you should do the following:
- Use the COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool to become clear about your symptoms and follow the advice given.
- Seek immediate medical attention. But before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call them and tell them about your symptoms.
- Isolate yourself and stay indoors with a phone. Avoid using the same bathroom as other people in your household.
- Do not use public transport or taxis. Don’t visit public areas.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. If you have easy access to surgical face masks, use one, and dispose of it safely after use. Remember to wash your hands after disposing of a mask.
- Follow appropriate disinfection/hand washing rules to avoid spreading the virus to others.
Is there a vaccine?
Work is underway on a coronavirus vaccine. However, Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, says it will likely take at least a year before it becomes available.
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Please note: The article above was prepared to the best of the author’s ability based on available information. However, it is not updated on a daily basis and may not apply to your specific situation.