What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, previously called the Novel Coronavirus, is a disease caused by a newly discovered strain of coronavirus which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which cause illness including the ‘common cold’. This virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is called the “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19’ for short.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms vary with COVID-19 and not everyone will have the same features. The most common include:
- Dry cough
Some patients may have:
- Aches and pains
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
Some persons have no symptoms and may spread the disease even before they show symptoms. Most people (about 80%) recover without needing special treatment. However, around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty with breathing including developing pneumonia. As the virus is spreading rapidly, the number of persons who can potentially be ill at the same time can be significant. This can therefore overwhelm the healthcare resources. This is why restrictions on your daily life may be necessary, including avoiding mass gatherings, staying away from school and cancelling travel activities. Older persons, and those with underlying medical problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and/or diabetes, are more likely to develop severe illness if they get this virus. This does not mean that younger persons cannot become unwell.is COVID-19? COVID-19, previously called the Novel Coronavirus, is a disease caused by a newly discovered strain of coronavirus which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which cause illness including the ‘common cold’. This virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes is called the “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19’ for short.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 spreads in several ways. It can spread from a person who is infected directly to another person through small droplets from the nose or mouth. This can occur when the person coughs, speaks or sneezes, for example. These droplets land on objects and other surfaces. A non-infected person can then touch these objects with the virus and then spread them to their eyes, nose and/or mouth. The virus can also be transmitted to other persons by physical contact such as hugging, kissing, shaking hands and other forms of close social contact. It is important therefore to:
- Stay at least 6 feet away from a sick person.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth
Can someone who has COVID-19 spread the illness to others?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person very quickly. Someone who has COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. Remember, the disease can be spread even by some persons who show little or no symptoms. That is why patients who are suspected of having the disease are isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.
Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the disease to others?
Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms), from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease.
Is COVID-19 curable?
To date, there is no vaccine and no specific medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. Research is ongoing on finding a treatment and a vaccine. Medical management approach is supportive, which means - to treat the symptoms and the complications if they occur. As stated before, most patients have recovered completely with no complications observed to date.
Should I wear a mask to protect myself from COVID-19?
If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected infection. If you do not know how to wear and care for a mask, it my increase the chance of you getting the virus from frequent touching and adjusting of it. Masks are effective only when used in combination with the recommended ways to reduce catching the virus including frequent hand washing with soap and water firstly, or by the use of alcohol-based hand cleansers if soap and water are not available. Worldwide there is a shortage of these masks and these must be used wisely. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
How long does it take to recover from COVID-19?
Research continues in this area. Your health care professionals will guide you as to when it is safe to return to your usual activities.
Are there persons who are at a greater risk for developing complications from COVID-19?
Older persons, persons who have pre-existing conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others. Other risk factors include persons whose immune system may be compromised or if using medication to suppress their immune system. Health care workers who provide care to COVID-19 patients are also included in the risk group.
How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces?
Research is ongoing on this area. It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that these viruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on the type of surface (e.g. plastic, stainless steel) and the environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity). The virus is, however, killed by the use of disinfectants and cleaners when used per the instructions of use.
How do I protect myself and my loved ones from getting COVID-19?
- Wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water and soap are not available
- Cover the nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Carefully dispose of tissue immediately after using and wash hands
- Cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow if you do not have a tissue
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth
- Practice social distancing (e.g. no kissing, hugging, or hand-shaking, avoid mass gatherings)
- Stay home if you are ill but seek medical attention as per other guidelines if urgent care is required
- Avoid close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms
- Sanitize hard surfaces (e.g. table tops, hand rails, door knobs and trolleys) as often as possible
- Stay up to date to the authorized information sources ( e.g. www.health.gov.tt) and avoid spreading false or unverified information which is not good for the mental health of you or others.
Can I get COVID-19 from packages and items received from abroad?
There is a low risk of contracting the virus from commercial goods as the package would have been exposed to different conditions and temperatures during transit.
What else should I avoid doing?
Certain actions can cause complications and can increase your chance of contracting COVID-19 such as:
- Wearing masks or gloves improperly
What should I do if I have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
If you have been informed that someone you have been in close contact with has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been sent on self-quarantine by a medical professional please self-quarantine (see Self-quarantine Guidelines from the Ministry of Health) and call the hotline, 877-WELL, if you have not been contacted by a contact tracer.