Coronaviruses are a vast family of viruses that can cause illnesses in animals and humans. Humans trigger various respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to more severe conditions like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recent addition to this family is the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the latest coronavirus strain to be identified. This novel virus and the associated disease were previously unknown until the outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Symptoms of COVID-19
The most prevalent symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, fatigue, and a dry cough. Some individuals may experience muscle aches, nasal congestion, a runny nose, a sore throat, or diarrhea. Typically, these symptoms are mild and have a gradual onset. However, some individuals may remain asymptomatic and not feel unwell at all. Most cases (around 80%) recover without requiring specialized treatment. About one in six individuals contracting COVID-19 may experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing. Those at greater risk for severe illness include older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes. Individuals with fever, cough, and breathing difficulties should seek immediate medical attention.
How Does COVID-19 Spread?
COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person through contact with respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or exhales. These droplets can settle on surfaces and objects in the vicinity. Subsequent contact with contaminated surfaces and subsequent touching of the eyes, nose, or mouth can lead to infection. Additionally, the virus can be contracted by inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person who coughs or exhales. Therefore, maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from an infected individual is crucial.
It’s important to note that wearing a mask is recommended primarily for those who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, particularly coughing, or those caring for potentially infected individuals. Disposable face masks should only be used once to conserve resources, as there is a global shortage. The most effective measures to protect oneself and others from COVID-19 include frequent handwashing, covering coughs with the elbow or a tissue, and maintaining a safe distance (at least 1 meter or 3 feet) from individuals coughing or sneezing.
Measures That Are NOT Effective Against COVID-19
Several practices are ineffective and potentially harmful in the context of COVID-19:
- Wearing multiple masks
- Taking antibiotics
If you experience fever, cough, or breathing difficulties, it’s crucial to seek prompt medical care to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection. Be sure to inform your healthcare provider of your recent travel history.