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We’ve probably all been bombarded ad nauseam about Corona Virus the past few weeks.  Maybe you’ve heard several different theories about its origin, how easily it can be contracted, how it spreads, etc.  These can all be confusing especially when combined with anecdotal or “sketchy” information. This can lead to increased fear, anxiety, and spread of the disease.  

Let’s clear up the meaning of a few terms & acronyms to start:

  • Bacteria: microscopic living organisms, single-celled primarily.  These can be found everywhere. They can be dangerous, such as when they cause infection, or beneficial, for example production & digestion of foods.  Antibiotics fight bacterial infections.
  • CDC: The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: The primary governmental agency of the USA that has responsibility for protecting the nation from health, safety, and security threats related to disease.  The headquarters is in Atlanta, GA with locations elsewhere in the US & around the world.
  • COVID-19: official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.  ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease.
  • SARS-CoV-2: the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, shortened to the above.
  • Virulence: the severity or harmfulness of a disease or poison; a pathogen’s or microbe’s ability to infect or damage a host.
  • Virus: an infective agent that is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host.  Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

So, what is a coronavirus?  It’s a part of a large family of viruses that are actually commonplace in people and some animals.  How exactly COVID-19 is spread is largely unknown, but it’s mainly person to person. According to the CDC, much of the prevention strategy regarding COVID-19 spread is based not so much on SARS-CoV-2 itself, but on what IS known regarding similar coronavirus behavior.  Many known person to person cases of COVID-19 transmission have occurred in China. Some have also occurred in the US, with the most known cases having taken place in the states of Washington and California.

The current guidance from the CDC indicates the most common or likely cause of person to person spread is people w/ close contact (~6 ft).  This is through respiratory droplets produced when a symptomatic person coughs or sneezes and a non-infected person inhales the droplets. What makes COVID-19 particularly devious is that an infected person can spread the virus while they aren’t yet showing any symptoms, but are still infected.  Generally, that time frame is called the incubation period. This mode of transmission is much less common than person to person spread. CDC Guidance also indicates that COVID-19 can also be contracted by touching an infected surface (phone, doorknob, table, etc.) and then touching a body surface on/near a mucous membrane (nose, eyes, etc.) though this appears to be the least common mode.

COVID-19 can be highly contagious, which leads to potential increased virulence.  Symptoms include those similar to influenza (fever, cough, etc.) and have been known to be seen 2 days to 2 weeks after being exposed.  It’s important to contact your primary care provider as soon as you develop symptoms or suspect exposure so that you can be evaluated per the latest guidance.  Of course, for severe symptoms, seek emergency care as needed right away!

Prevention for the most part, is common sense.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases…

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  Fancy soaps and specific water temperature aren’t as important as the friction of vigorously rubbing your hands together.  Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t readily available. If you use a shared workspace at your job, take extra time to disinfect your work phone, desk surfaces, computer, and the like.  Try making a list of surfaces you touch many times a day without realizing- such as doorknobs, your belt buckle, steering wheel, light switches, etc. Pack an extra bottle of hand sanitizer in your jacket pocket, purse, etc.  If you feel symptomatic, stay home from work or school until being evaluated by the appropriate medical provider. CDC encourages employers to have associates stay home when having respiratory symptoms and relax rules regarding documentation needed to excuse absences from work.

Finally, keep current with the latest information from reputable sources.  Contact your state or local health department. 

The following links should prove helpful and were used as source material for this article: