UPDATED MARCH 17, 2020 AT 9:42 P.M. PT
Recently, we published “Taking a Rational Approach to the Recent Coronavirus” to alleviate some of the fear and panic surrounding the virus. In that post, we presented ten practical tips for preventing infection and reducing the severity and duration of symptoms if prevention efforts fall short.
In this post, we take a deeper dive into understanding what the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is by answering a few frequently asked questions (FAQs).
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus (CoV) is the name given to a group of viruses that can cause respiratory disease, producing symptoms similar to those of the cold or flu.
- The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2,” which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2.
- The disease it causes has been named “COVID-19,” which stands for “Coronavirus Disease-2019” (the year the virus first infected humans).
- CoV-2 is not the first coronavirus. Previous strains include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they’re transmitted between animals and people. SARS was first transferred from civet cats to humans, and MERS was first transferred from dromedary camels to humans. Coronaviruses are common in many different species of animals, including cats, camels, cattle, and bats.
Where did the recent coronavirus start?
Initial reports of infection with SARS-CoV-2 came from Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here in the United States reports that the first cases are most likely the result of animal-to-human transfer and seemed to be spreading to humans in seafood and animal markets. Now the virus is spreading predominantly between humans.
How does the virus spread?
Although the coronavirus probably first infected humans through a transfer from an animal, it now seems to be spreading from person to person via respiratory droplets that are aerosolized when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19)?
Symptoms typically include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath and range from mild to severe. A large majority of people who are infected with the coronavirus (81%) have only mild symptoms. Severe symptoms include respiratory distress and possibly death.
We’re in the middle of cold and flu season, so if you have cold or flu symptoms, it’s far more likely that you have the common cold (rhinovirus) or the flu (influenza virus) than coronavirus. The following table compares cold, flu, and coronavirus symptoms.
|Stuffy or runny nose||Stuffy or runny nose||Dry cough|
|Coughing||Coughing||Shortness of breath|
|Sore throat||Sore throat|
|Post-nasal drip||Muscle or body aches|
|Fever (rarely)||Fever or chills|
If exposed, how long will it take before I become symptomatic?
The incubation period seems to be somewhere between two and 14 days, so if you haven’t become symptomatic within two weeks of possible exposure, you’re probably off the hook.
What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?
First thing to know is that if you are sick with symptoms of respiratory illness — including fever, cough and shortness of breath — do not come to the Restoration Healthcare clinic in Irvine because our office is temporarily closed (until at least March 31). Instead, call our front desk (949-535-2322, ext. 1), which is being managed by our staff from remote locations, or use the online patient portal to be scheduled for a telemedicine appointment/assessment with a Restoration Healthcare provider. Your provider will determine if you meet the clinical criteria for testing of COVID-19.
How do I get a COVID-19 Test?
If testing for COVID-19 is determined to be necessary for you, the clinician here at Restoration Healthcare who conducts your telemedicine appointment will refer you Hoag Urgent Care for testing. No testing is conducted in our clinic in Irvine.
Please note that Hoag requires you to call in advance of arriving at one of their facilities. Additionally, you should not expect testing unless you exhibit symptoms which include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath — or you have had close contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient or close contact with someone who has a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of the onset of your symptoms.
Is there a vaccine or drug treatment for SARS-CoV-2?
Not yet. No pharmaceutical cure or preventive vaccine exists right now. Treatment is supportive, meaning giving the body what it needs while it kills the virus. Supportive treatment involves providing fluids, medicine to reduce fever, and in severe cases, oxygen. In the event of a coexisting bacterial infection, such as bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics may be helpful.
Who is at greatest risk?
Two factors contribute most to determining a person’s risk of becoming infected:
Obviously, if you’re in close contact or sharing an enclosed space with someone who’s infected, your odds of becoming infected are increased. Also, if you have a preexisting medical condition or your immune system is compromised, your risk is increased.
The best defense against illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. And since the virus is thought to spread primarily from person-to-person, it is recommended that you practice social distancing, which essentially means keeping yourself at a safe distance from others (about 6 feet is what is currently recommended). You should also eat healthy; get enough restorative sleep; drink plenty of fresh, filtered water; and minimize stress. Also, if your healthcare provider recommends it, load up on vitamin C and take other supplements, which may support your immune system. See our previous post “Taking a Rational Approach to the Recent Coronavirus” for details.
Should I wear a surgical mask in public?
Probably not. The masks many people are wearing are not very effective in reducing the spread of the virus. The most good they do are in discouraging wearers from touching their face. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes; if you cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue and dispose of it properly; and avoid close contact with people who are infected. These precautions will be of as much or more benefit than wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the virus.
What should I do, if anything, to prepare?
Stay tuned to and follow the guidance of your doctor and trusted public authorities, such as the CDC and the World Health Organization without buying into the fears and panic of the media and the public at large.
For example, if your doctor advises that you not go out in public due to cold or flu-like symptoms, stay home. Stay in the loop regarding any closings of schools, churches, temples, businesses, and other gathering places. If you have travel plans, check your travel reservations and any travel advisories for your planned destinations.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t worry yourself sick over the coronavirus. We are all exposed to hundreds of pathogens all the time — viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites. Exposure does not cause disease. A healthy immune system will protect you against infection and, if you do happen to become infected, eradicate the alien invaders in a matter of days or weeks so you can return to feeling your very best.
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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post and FAQ about coronavirus and COVID-19 is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at Restoration Healthcare, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.