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Infectious Diseases >
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect animals (including bats) and humans. Some strains of coronavirus cause respiratory illness in humans each winter. These infections usually cause mild illness like the common cold. In December 2019, a new type of coronavirus infection (COVID-19) was identified in patients with severe pneumonia in Wuhan, China. This new virus is closely related to bat coronaviruses and to the SARS coronavirus that caused an outbreak in 2003.
COVID-19 is similar to the flu in many ways. Fever and cough are the most common symptoms, but fever may be absent in the early phase of illness. Shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, and sore throat may also occur. Some patients have reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea.
Many COVID-19 infections are mild, and some do not cause any illness. In China, about 20% of patients with COVID-19 developed severe or life-threatening illness. Older adults and people with chronic diseases have the highest risk of severe illness or death. About 1% to 2% of people with confirmed COVID-19 have died. It is hard to determine the true death rate among all cases, since the actual number of cases is larger than the number of diagnosed cases. The risk of death from COVID-19 is substantially higher than seasonal flu. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top US health official, estimates that COVID-19 is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu.
COVID-19 appears to spread just like the flu. Coughing and sneezing can spread the virus through respiratory droplets. Contamination of hands can lead to infection when a person touches their eyes or nose. COVID-19 cannot cause infection through the skin.
This is a new virus in humans, and no one is immune until they have been infected. Older adults have the highest risk of serious COVID-19 illness, especially those with chronic disease. Children can become infected with COVID-19 but serious complications are rare. People who have recovered from COVID-19 have some immunity. It’s not clear how long immunity will last after recovering from COVID-19 infection.
If you are healthy and have mild symptoms, you should manage your illness at home. If you have a serious chronic disease or more severe symptoms (such as high fever, shortness of breath, or weakness), contact your health care provider immediately or call 911 if you need emergency help.
By staying home with mild illness, you avoid putting other people at risk. COVID-19 can spread easily to household members unless precautions are taken. Sleep in a different room and use a different bathroom if possible. Do not share dishes, cups, glasses, eating utensils, towels or bedding. Avoid contact with pets and animals. Sanitize and clean objects and surfaces frequently, especially in the ‘sick room’ and bathroom. The infected person should wear a facemask if possible. Caregivers should wear a facemask when entering the room of a sick person with COVID-19 symptoms. Homemade masks may offer some protection and can be used if a commercial mask is not available.
Widespread testing for COVID-19 is not yet available, and most testing is limited to patients needing hospital care. Please do not ask your doctor for a COVID-19 test. Marshfield Clinic health care providers will request this test when needed. If you have questions, reach out to your Marshfield Clinic health care provider by phone or MyMarshfieldClinic.
-Avoid groups and stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Remember that people can spread COVID-19 before symptoms start.
-Stay home all the time except for essential travel for food and supplies.
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
-Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it in the trash.
-Do not shake hands.
-Regularly clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that people touch using regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
-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. Wash your hands right away after returning home.
-If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
People with symptoms of COVID-19 should wear a mask to help prevent spreading the disease. Caregivers should also wear a mask while taking care of someone with possible COVID-19. There is a national shortage masks, and the limited supply is needed to protect health care providers. A homemade mask may provide some protection for home caregivers if nothing else is available.
Vaccines are already in development, but there are many challenges. A vaccine must first be tested in animals and humans to make sure it is safe and effective. In the best case scenario, a vaccine might be available in 1-2 years. There is no antiviral treatment proven to work for COVID-19, but some antiviral therapies are being tested in clinical trials.
Be prepared for weeks or months when normal activities will be disrupted. It’s important to take care of yourself while keeping away from other people. You can stay connected on social media, and outdoor activities are safe if you use good judgement and stay away from other people. Please stay informed and follow the latest recommendations from the state of Wisconsin and CDC.
CDC has published an interim COVID-19 guideline for households:
Be sure to rely on a trusted source for accurate COVID-19 information. These include the CDC, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Minnesota Department of Health and the World Health Organization:
The situation is changing daily, and we regularly update our COVID-19 hub with the recommendations, MCHS updates and key resources you need to protect you and your family.
There is a ton of info in the media about the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) but what’s most important for you to know? Read more
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