What is Coronavirus?
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).
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
How Coronavirus (COVID-19) Spreads
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
- People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
- Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
How easily the virus spreads
How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.
The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.
How to protect yourself from the Coronavirus
Influenza viruses and common cold viruses are also spread this way. However, now that the virus is more widespread in the US, other preventative guidelines do apply, such as the now-well-known concept of social distancing.
Wash your hands
Yes, this is still the no. 1 way to prevent coronavirus, Dr. Moorcroft says. “The things you should do to protect yourself from the coronavirus are things you should do every day,” he points out. “The no. 1 thing you can do to prevent any respiratory illness is to practice good personal hygiene.”
Washing your hands correctly – using soap and water and washing for at least 20 seconds — or using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available, still stands as the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, according to the CDC.
The CDC, the WHO, governments and healthcare workers are all urging people to stay home if they can. Obviously, some people don’t have the luxury of working from home, and people still need to venture out to grocery stores and gas stations. But when you can stay home, do so to flatten the curve.
If you do need to leave the house, follow some basic preventative measures.
Follow local public health guidelines
By mid-March 2020, many states, counties and cities implemented their own protective measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many public and private schools are closed, and youth sports programs have been suspended just as college and professional sports have. Restaurants and bars are closed or have limited hours and capabilities, as do other nonessential businesses, such as clothing stores.
If your state or local government has imposed guidelines, you should follow them to the best of your ability.
Boost your immune system
On top of basic illness prevention, Moorcroft says the best (and only real) defense against disease is a strong immune system. Your body is better able to fight off illnesses when your immune system is really humming, he explains, and everyone should put in an effort to get theirs into tip-top shape.
“This is a time to focus on all the health habits you may have been putting off,” Moorcroft says. “Start daily activities and food choices that support your health and turn them into habits that will lead to lifelong improvements in health. During this time, get adequate sleep and some fresh air and sunlight daily.”
Also, stay hydrated, minimize overly processed foods and make sure to eat enough micronutrients when you can (try your best with what you can find at grocery stores right now).
Try to stay calm
In addition to your physical health, you should take care of your mental health. High stress levels can take a toll on your immune system, which is the opposite of what you want in this situation. If you’re feeling overly anxious about COVID-19, follow these tips from a psychotherapist to keep your nerves calm.