There is so much information out there about the new coronavirus — some of it expert, much of it confusing or false. Here are some answers to questions many have about the respiratory illness it causes that come from sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as local South Florida and national infectious disease specialists.
What can I do to reduce my risk of getting coronavirus?
Wash your hands.
The best way to wash your hands is with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, said Brittany Kmush, an assistant professor of public health at Syracuse University who specializes in the risks associated with infectious diseases.
We all rub our eyes, pick and scratch our noses, and touch our faces. Please try to stop doing that. These seemingly innocuous activities can spread the virus. (As well as simple colds and the flu.)
How do I get coronavirus?
You can get coronavirus disease from traveling to places that have cases or by coming into contact with people who have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, is similar to influenza, the CDC says. Symptoms can include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.
What should I do if I have symptoms I think may be coronavirus?
If you have these symptoms, stay at home and call in sick to work — as you should do when you get ailments like colds or the flu, anyway.
Then ask yourself: If you have these symptoms, did you travel to a place with known cases? The virus is thought to have originated in Wuhan, China, where people started getting sick in December, NBC News reports.
There have since been outbreaks in Italy, South Korea, Iran and the U.S., including Washington state, where 10 have died — many at a nursing home — as of March 4, The New York Times reported. One person has also died in California. Several people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Florida, too.
Do you believe you were exposed to someone with the virus?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
When do symptoms first appear?
Symptoms could appear within 2 to 14 days after exposure.
Who is most at risk to feel sicker?
In general, seniors, which is one major reason nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior activity centers need to take precautions — like cleanliness — seriously.
Also, those with other complicating health factors like a compromised immune system from things like cancer or a recent organ transplant, said Jose G. Castro, a physician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
These individuals should seek medical care immediately, he said.
“Otherwise, healthy people who develop dry cough and fever — there’s no need to panic,” Castro said. “There are a lot of viruses right now that produce these types of symptoms.”
What is the treatment for coronavirus like?
In most instances, such as mild symptoms, it’s treated like the cold or mild flu, Castro said. Think: hydration, rest, over-the-counter meds to reduce fever.
Those with more severe symptoms will have to be admitted to a hospital for more advanced care because, as with the flu, the virus can cause other respiratory escalations that compromise organs.
You may be placed on a ventilator to help your breathing.
Right now, “there’s no specific treatment for this virus,” Castro told the Miami Herald. “There are a number of medications being studied.”
Should I wear a face mask for protection?
If you’re already sick, it’s prudent to wear one because it will reduce your likelihood of infecting others. The caveat: Most store-bought masks are not advanced enough to prevent particles of the virus from getting into your lungs.
As for medical-grade masks, wearing them might actually increase your chance of getting infected because most people — read: people who aren’t health workers — may not know how to use them properly and, while futzing about adjusting them, end up touching their face more. Virus particles cling to the mask. Touching your face is one way coronavirus spreads.
“There’s very little evidence that wearing [face masks] will protect you, but it would prevent much of your secretions from getting out and infecting other people, as that’s where most of the virus particles are,” Kmush said.
Will warm weather stop COVID-19?
Florida has been flirting with heat records in recent weeks, and spring begins March 19. Some people have expressed hope that warm weather will kill the virus or slow the spread of the disease.
But the answer is: Experts don’t know yet whether warm weather will halt the virus, according to the CDC.
“Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months,” the CDC says. “At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer.”
So, don’t rely on Mother Nature. Take prudent precautions.
Can I get supplies, like sanitizers?
Yes. But maybe not everything you want, not right away. Many stores in South Florida — like Publix, Walgreens, CVS and Walmart, among them — have seen runs on supplies like hand sanitizers and Lysol and Clorox wipes.
Stores are working on getting new stock on the shelves over the next few days and weeks.
Coronavirus has people stocking up. What’s available or sold out in your stores?
How long is the quarantine for COVID-19?
For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, the CDC said. That’s because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses.
I was released from quarantine. Can I still spread the virus?
Not upon release. Not unless you somehow contract the virus once out.
“Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period,” the CDC said.
Can I get the virus from food?
Currently, there is no evidence that food transmits this coronavirus, according to the CDC. The virus is spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets.
That said, before preparing or eating food you should make washing your hands a daily routine, anyway, because it’s simply healthier for a host of reasons.
Learn what is known about the spread of COVID-19.
Can cash spread coronavirus?
Yes, cash can spread COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.
Wash your hands after handling money since the virus that causes COVID-19 could stick to the cash for days, the WHO told The Telegraph. The agency said people should use “contactless technology” instead — like Apple Pay or credit cards.
The flu virus, for instance, can survive 17 days on paper bills, Time reported. As well as other nasty things we used to see drug users do on “Miami Vice.”
Can I catch coronavirus from my pet?
No. There’s no evidence that companion animals like cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.
Where can I get email updates?
The CDC will send you email updates on COVID-19. Submit your email address on the CDC webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#spreads.
Can you get coronavirus from shipped packages?
You ordered an import from Amazon and it’s coming to your door from China or an area in which there is a coronavirus outbreak. Is it safe to accept delivery?
Don’t worry about it.
“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” the World Health Organization said.
Is there a hotline for information on coronavirus?
Yes. Florida health officials set up a hotline to help answer questions about the novel coronavirus.
The Florida Department of Health’s dedicated call center is operational on weekdays, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 866-779-6121, or email [email protected]
Also, epidemiological staffers at county health departments are available around the clock, a spokesman for Florida’s Department of Health told the Miami Herald.
To find your county health department, visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/all-county-locations.html.
The state health department’s COVID-19 website offers info, too, at http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/.
Have questions about novel coronavirus in Florida? There’s a state hotline for that