What is COVID-19 [Coronavirus]?

Updated:  September 21, 2020

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, dry cough, loss of taste, and loss of sense of smell. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

The World Health Organization states that illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones.

The World Health Organization states that while they are still learning about how COVID-2019 affects people, older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, or a suppressed immune system)  appear to develop serious illness more often than others. Learn more about risks in EDS and HSD here.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] explains that the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus and it’s important to understand how it is spread. 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), and also 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.

The American College of Gastroenterology has also stated that there is evidence suggesting that COVID-19 could be spread from feces. The virus may be present in gastrointestinal mucous secretions and feces. Individuals with a gastrointestinal infection have the potential to pass on infection from fecal contamination. This must be considered as any other diarrheal illness in regards to how hand hygiene can play a vital part in reducing the likelihood of infection. 

Protection measures for everyone

The WHO explains that everyone should stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority.

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
    • Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet distance between yourself and others.
    • Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
    • Why? Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
    • Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
  • Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places.