COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that results from infection by a new type of coronavirus. The situation is evolving rapidly, and there is much that scientists and doctors do not yet know about COVID-19.
FENOM wants you to have the facts that are known, so you can best protect yourself and your family.
Here are some key facts on COVID-19:
- Not everyone who gets COVID-19 will experience any symptoms. For those that do, most experience mild symptoms.
- Symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath
- If you develop cough or fever, call your health care provider and follow their guidance
- If you experience shortness of breath, go to the hospital immediately
- If you begin to feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work, the grocery store, or anywhere else.
- Stay home as much as possible. Only leave your home for essential reasons (picking up groceries or prescription medications)
- There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19
To protect yourself and others, practice good hygiene:
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently
- Use hand sanitizer with 60% or greater alcohol content when hand washing is not practical
- Cover your face when you sneeze or cough
- Avoid touching your face
- Avoid shaking hands and hugging
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is actually a family of several viruses, many of which have been around for years. For example, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was a serious respiratory disease in Asia in 2003, is a type of coronavirus. The coronavirus that is currently causing concern across the globe is officially named SARS-CoV-2. The disease that it causes is known as “coronavirus disease 2019” or COVID-19.
Coronaviruses are known to be found in a number of different animals, including bats, camels, cattle and cats. This new coronavirus is believed to have originated in bats, possibly jumping to another animal species before the first human infection. The virus has the ability to be transmitted from animals to other animal species, animals to humans and humans to humans. The first outbreak of COVID-19 was in China and cases have now been reported in more than 70 locations across the globe, including in the United States. Texas reported its first cases in a Houston suburb the first week of March. A presumptive case of COVID-19 was reported in Collin County, the first in North Texas, the second week of March. As of April 5th, the number of cases has grown to more than 300,000 in the US with more than 8,000 deaths.
COVID-19 meets the definition of a global pandemic: it is present on every continent, there is “community spread,” meaning the source of infection is sometimes unknown and people have died as a result of the disease. For perspective, the flu also meets the definition of a pandemic, causing thousands of deaths each year.
COVID-19 spreads through the respiratory droplets that are emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live on a surface for a few days, so a person can contract it by touching a contaminated surface, such as a doorknob.
It is currently thought that most people who get COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms and some may not experience any at all. It is estimated that 15-20% of people who get COVID-19 will have severe complications.
When COVID-19 does produce symptoms, those are presently known to include:
- Shortness of breath
Of course, fever and cough can also be symptoms of a variety of other illnesses, such as influenza and the common cold.
Call your health care provider’s office and tell them about your symptoms. They will advise you on next steps.
Stay home and avoid contact with others
Drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest and take acetaminophen for fever
If you experience shortness of breath, persistent chest pain or pressure, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish face/lips- go to the hospital right away.
How to Protect Yourself
There are several things people can do to lessen their chances of getting COVID-19 – and they are the same things we should do to reduce risk of flu and the common cold.
- Wash your hands frequently. Frequent handwashing is the best way to reduce the spread of germs. Here is the CDC’s advice on best handwashing practice:
- 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. Be sure to 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.
- Use hand sanitizer. Washing your hands with soap and water is always preferable, but it is good to keep hand sanitizer around for when hand washing is not practical. Hand sanitizer should have at least 60% alcohol content to be effective.
- Avoid touching your face. Our hands are exposed to countless germs a day, every time we touch a door handle, a grocery cart, money, etc. When we put our hands to our nose or mouth, or rub our eyes, we are providing the pathway for those germs to enter our bodies and possibly make us sick. So, stop touching your face!
- Protect others by covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. And, if you are feeling sick, stay home from work or school and avoid contact with others so you don’t spread germs.
- Follow U.S. government travel advisories. Avoid travel at this time.
- Wipe down surfaces that are frequently touched, using an anti-bacterial cleaner.
- Wear facemasks. This is a more recent recommendation that everyone wear cloth facemasks when they go out in public. See this document.
- Senior citizens should take extra precautions, including staying home as much as possible and avoiding public places and crowds.
If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, call your primary care physician. At FENOM, we are able to test symptomatic pregnant patients at this time. So, call us right away if you’re pregnant with symptoms. We will set up a virtual visit to discuss your symptoms, and then if appropriate, send you for drive-through testing at our laboratory. There, they will perform rapid flu and rapid strep test (we rule out these first). If both are negative, they will perform the COVID testing which will result in 2-3 days.
It is important to note that the virus may be present and go undetected in its early stages. Therefore, people who may have been exposed to the virus – from travel, for instance – may need to undergo more than one round of testing.
If someone tests positive for COVID-19, CDC’s current guidance is that they remain quarantined, either in a hospital or at home, depending on the severity of their condition. CDC says the quarantine should only be lifted once all symptoms are gone, including cough, and the patient is fever free without the use of medication. For someone who has been exposed to coronavirus but is not showing symptoms, they should self-quarantine for 14 days, as that is the known incubation period for this type of virus. If you are getting short of breath, go to the hospital right away and let them know you’re concerned about COVID-19 on check in so they can give you a mask.
At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Scientists are working on one, but most experts believe it will be at least a year before a vaccine is available.
Currently, we do not believe that coronavirus leads to increased rate of miscarriage or congenital anomalies, but there is still a lot we don’t know. It is important to keep fever down especially in the first trimester with Tylenol.
Information regarding COVID-19 during pregnancy and the postpartum period is constantly evolving. The risks in pregnancy include worsening respiratory conditions, early intubation, ICU admission, organ damage (including liver and kidney), maternal mortality, fetal mortality and neonatal mortality. Extra precautions will be required to ensure that the patient (mother) and her baby, as well as all involved staff, be protected while admitted (including delivery and the postpartum period).
For COVID-19 positive patients or Person Under Investigation (PUI), early epidural placement will be encouraged to decrease the need for and risks related to general anesthesia, specifically intubation. Prevention of emergent cesarean section requiring general anesthesia is recommended.
For mothers who are COVID-positive, our hospital recommends separation of mother and baby after delivery. Rooming-in and direct skin-to-skin is not recommended. Currently, there is no documentation of transmission via breastmilk. Breastfeeding or pumping for women who are COVID-positive or PUIs is still recommended. The neonate may be at risk of acquiring COVID via respiratory droplets while breastfeeding. The decision to express breast milk with a breast pump as opposed to direct breastfeeding should be considered.
Be Vigilant, but Don’t Panic
Given the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to stay abreast of the latest developments. Listen to guidance from local government on the best way to protect yourself. If you’re feeling ill, contact your health care provider right away.
This article contains information sourced from:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention