By: Vinay Kohli M.D., MBA

Chief Medical Officer & Vice-Chancellor

What is COVID-19?

COVID 19 stands for Coronavirus disease 2019 which appeared in late 2019. It is caused by a virus known as “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)”.

 How is COVID-19 spread?

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads by the act when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or talks near other people in close proximity. It can also be spread at gatherings where people are close together, shaking hands, hugging, sharing food or even singing together. Doctors also think that you increase the likelihood to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

A person can be infected, and spread the virus to others even without showing signs of any symptoms. In global efforts to slow down the spread, it is suggested that individuals remain six feet apart as well as avoiding social gatherings. 

 What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms usually begin to appear 4 or 5 days after being exposed to the virus. However, in some cases, it can take as long as 2 weeks for symptoms to appear. Some people will never show symptoms although they are a carrier of COVID-19 which are identified as asymptomatic patients.

 When symptoms do appear, they can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling tired
  • Shaking chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • New loss of smell or taste
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

For most people, symptoms can improve within a few weeks. Others can continue to have some symptoms for weeks or months. This is more prone in the people who have underlying illnesses and may need to stay in the hospital.

 Am I at risk for getting seriously ill?

Depending on your age and health, COVID-19 can lead to serious health conditions such as but not limited to pneumonia, heart problems, or even death. Risks are higher in older patients and in patients with one or more of the following conditions: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sickle cell disease, obesity, weakened immune system (for example, HIV).

 What should I do if I have symptoms?

If you have a fever, cough, trouble breathing, or other symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor. If you are severely ill and need to go to the clinic or hospital right away, you should call ahead if possible. This way the staff can care for you while taking steps to protect others. If you think you are having a medical emergency, call for an ambulance (dial 9-1-1).

 Is there a test for the virus that can detect COVID-19?

Yes. If your doctor suspects you have COVID-19, they might take a swab from inside your nose for testing. There is also a blood test that can show if a person has had COVID-19 in the past. This is called an “antibody” test. Antibody tests are generally not used to diagnose COVID-19 or make decisions about care. But experts can use them to learn how many people in a certain area were infected without knowing it. 

 What are the options for treatment and prevention?

  • Mild illness – Mild illness means you might have symptoms like fever and cough, but you do not have difficulty breathing. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can rest at home until they get better.
  • Severe illness – If you have more severe illness with difficulty breathing, you might need to stay in the hospital.
  • Doctors are studying several possible treatments for COVID-19. In certain cases, doctors might recommend medicines that seem to help some people who are severely ill. Do not try any new medicines or treatments without talking to a doctor.

There is not yet a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. But there are things you can do to help slow the spread.

  • Practice “social distancing.” It is most important to avoid contact with people who are sick. Avoiding crowds is an important part of social distancing. But even small gatherings can be risky, so it is best to stay home as much as you can. When you do need to go out, try your best to stay at least 6 feet (about 2 meters) away from other people.
  • Wear a face mask when you need to go out. It is mostly so that if you are sick even if you do not have any symptoms, you are less likely to spread the infection to other people. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often. This is especially important after being out in public or touching surfaces that many other people also touch, like door handles or railings. Make sure to rub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, cleaning your wrists, fingernails, and in between your fingers. If you are not near a sink, you can use a hand sanitizing gel to clean your hands. The gels with at least 60 percent alcohol work the best. But it is better to wash with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Avoid traveling if you can. Some experts recommend not traveling to or from certain areas where there are a lot of cases of COVID-19. In any form of travel, you are susceptible to contract COVID-19 due to crowded spaces.

What should I do if someone in my home has COVID-19?

If someone in your home has COVID-19, there are additional things you can   do to protect yourself and others:

  • Keep the sick person away from others – The affected person should stay in a separate room and use a different bathroom if possible. They should also eat in their own room.
  •  Have them wear a mask – The affected person should cover their nose and mouth with a cloth mask when they are in the same room as other people. If they cannot wear a mask, you can help protect yourself by covering your face when you are in the room with them.
  • Wash hands – Wash your hands with soap and water often.
  • Clean often – Here are some specific things that can help:
  • Wear disposable gloves when you clean. It is also a good idea to wear gloves when you must touch the affected person’s laundry, dishes, utensils, or trash.
  • When you do the affected person’s laundry, avoid letting dirty clothes or bedding touch your body. Wash your hands and clean the outside of the washer after putting in the laundry.
  • Regularly clean things that are touched a lot. This includes counters, bedside tables, doorknobs, computers, phones, and bathroom surfaces.
  • Clean things in your home with soap and water, but also use disinfectants on appropriate surfaces. Some cleaning products work well to kill bacteria, but not viruses, so it is important to check labels. 

 What if I feel fine but think I was exposed?

If you think you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19, but you do not have any symptoms, you should self-quarantine at home for at least 14 days. This means staying home as much as possible and staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from other people in your home. You should also monitor yourself for any symptoms. If you do start to have symptoms, call your doctor right away.

What if I am pregnant?

If you are pregnant and you have questions about COVID-19, talk to your doctor. They can help.

 What can I do to cope with stress and anxiety?

It is normal to feel anxious or worried about COVID-19. It is also normal to feel stressed or lonely when you cannot do your normal activities or see friends and relatives but try not to panic. You can take care of yourself by trying to:

  • Take breaks from the news
  • Get regular exercise and eat healthy foods
  • Try to find activities that you enjoy and can do at home
  • Stay in touch with your friends and family members 

Where can I go to learn more?

As we learn more about this virus, expert recommendations will continue to change. Check with your doctor or public health official to get the most updated information about how to protect yourself.

For information about COVID-19 in your area, you can call your local public health office. You can find more information about COVID-19 at the following websites:

  1. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): cdc.gov/COVID19
  2. World Health Organization (WHO): who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
  3. Society_guideline_link Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Resources for patients”

 This topic retrieve from UpToDate on September 15, 2020