The current outbreak of infection with the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has sparked mass anxiety, fear and concern. So, I made a guide.
Here's a breakdown of everything you need to know regarding COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has since swept across the globe.
According to Maria Cohut, Ph.D., in an article for Medical News Today, only two other coronaviruses have previously caused a pandemic — SARS, or severe accurate respiratory syndrome, in 2002 and MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, in 2012.
Cohut further explained that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that target mammals' respiratory systems. They are zoonotic, meaning that when humans become infected with a coronavirus, it typically happened through contact with an infected animal.
The most common carriers of coronaviruses are bats. However, according to Cohut, bats do not typically transmit coronaviruses directly to humans. Instead, the transmission would occur through an intermediary animal — which is usually, but not always, a domestic one.
For example, SARS was spread by civet cats and MERS was spread by dromedaries (one-humped camels).
Initial reports stated that COVID-19 was spread from a seafood market in the center of the city. But, those have been ruled as unlikely and the true source still remains unknown to health specialists, Cohut wrote.
Though the transmission of COVID-19 likely started in animals, person-to-person spread can, and has been, occurring. Cohut noted that researchers are still studying the exact parameters around this.
According to Bob Wheaton, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to those of a normal cold or flu.
Based on the incubation period of COVID-19, symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, those who have reported and tested positive are seeing symptoms ranging from mild to severe. These include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chills and repeated shaking.
- Muscle pain.
- Sore throat.
- New loss of taste or smell.
According to Wheaton, there is no specific order of symptoms and it ultimately depends on the individual. "Some people get the cough first, some have a fever and others experience shortness of breath first," he said in an email.
The CDC suggested that, if you develop any of the following emergency warning signs, you should seek medical attention immediately. These include, but are not limited to:
- Trouble breathing.
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
- New confusion or inability to arouse.
- Bluish lips or face.
"Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19," the CDC's website reads. "If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives."
The CDC's website also made mention that older adults and immunocompromised people are at a higher risk for more serious illness than others.
The current death toll in Michigan listed on the MDHHS website totals at 2,227.
Prevention methods, treatments
As of the writing of this article, the CDC states on their website that, "there are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19."
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has had the state of Michigan under a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive quarantine order since March 24.
After a press conference that was held April 9 by Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for MDHHS, the original end date was extended to April 30 and stricter limitations were put in place regarding essential services. More can be read about it here.
Below is a list of ways to keep yourself and those around you safe, according to Sparrow Hospital spokesperson John Foren:
- Practice social distancing, at least six feet at all times.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay at home if you're sick.
- Practice good hand hygiene, wash your hands frequently.
- Cover your cough.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces daily.
In addition, MDHHS has posted a message on their website to remind the public that medical face masks, such as surgical masks and N95 respirators, must be saved for healthcare workers and those taking care of someone who is infected with COVID-19.
However, even healthy people are being encouraged to wear a mask when in public.
Due to this, the U.S. Surgeon General has created a video showing how to whip up a makeshift and cost-efficient mask with materials you have around your house. There are also patterns available on the CDC's website.
If you are working right now, whether on the front lines or in essential services, what you are doing is nothing short of heroic.
To keep you and anyone you may live with safe, aside from the regular prevention tips, Wheaton recommends that you sanitize and wipe down anything on your person that you have brought home from your place of business (identification badges, keys, cellphones, shoes) and wash your clothing as quickly as possible.
If you have a coworker who tests positive for COVID-19 that you have been in close contact with, you should self-quarantine for 14 days and follow up with your employer for further instruction, according to Wheaton.
If you have a coworker who tests positive for COVID-19 that you have not been in close contact with, you should monitor yourself closely for symptoms of respiratory illness and practice good social distancing, according to Wheaton. Self-quarantine is not required in this situation.
Outbreaks can be stressful. COVID-19 has sparked mass anxiety, fear and concern. Coping with these feelings will make you, the people you care about and your community stronger.
Everyone handles things differently. Whether you are a parent, someone who is at higher risk, coming out of quarantine, a first responder, or simply on your own, the CDC has provided a list of ways to put your mind at ease on their website.
Educate yourself. Stay alert. Reach out. And remember: We're in this together.