COVID-19 is now impacting the lives of Canadians on many levels and people across the country are seeking answers to numerous important questions they have about the novel coronavirus. Below is a summary:
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses in animals or humans. In humans, several types of coronaviruses cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The most recently discovered (or "novel") coronavirus causes the illness known as COVID-19.
The new virus and disease were unknown until an outbraeak in Wuhan, China, began in December 2019.
Health Canada says those who are infected with COVID-19 may have few, if any symptoms, or may not know they're infected because symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar to a cold or flu.
Those symptoms have included fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
Other symptoms can include fatigue, mucus production, muscle or joint pain, sore throat, headache and chills. COVID-19 can sometimes escalate to pneumonia.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 79 per cent of the people confirmed to have COVID-19 in this country have developed a cough, 55 per cent reported headaches, and 56 per cent have experienced chills.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Health officials are still trying to determine whether the virus can be transmitted to others if someone is not showing symptoms. While experts believe this is possible, it's considered to be rare.
Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who contract the virus recover.
However, for some, especially older adults and those with pre-existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness, such as pneumonia. In some cases, it can be fatal.
The World Health Organization has found that among patients in China, 80 per cent suffered mild cough and fever symptoms while 14 per cent suffered severe symptoms requiring treatment, including being placed on ventilators. A further one per cent lapsed into critical condition with symptoms that could include respiratory failure, septic shock and organ failure or dysfunction.
Researchers are still trying to understand just how deadly the new coronavirus is. The mortality rate from infection with the virus isn't known yet because the cases caught in an early part of an outbreak are often the most severe, people with mild or no symptoms aren't being tested.
Various reports have estimated the fatality rate from less than 1% to as high as 4% among cases diagnosed so far, depending on location.
The virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales.
The droplets can land on nearby objects and surfaces. People then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects and surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth before washing their hands.
People can also catch COVID-19 through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands with an infected person, or by breathing in droplets coughed, sneezed or exhaled by an infected person.
Health officials are still trying to determine whether the virus can be transmitted to others if someone is not showing symptoms. While experts believe this is possible, it's considered to be rare.
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand wash.
How long is 20 seconds? Long enough to sing Happy Birthday twice, or the ABC song all the way through.
Keep your distance. Stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people.
Avoid touching your face. If your hands are contaminated, they can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.
Clean surfaces with regular household sprays and wipes.
Cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. Use your arm or elbow, or use a tissue and then dispose of it properly. Wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they're mild, stay at home and follow instructions to self-isolate.
If you are ill or you have been in close contact with an ill person, call Health Links (1-888-315-9257). They will provide advice on what to do.
If you seek medical attention for any fever, cough or difficulty breathing, call ahead and follow instructions. Manitobans should call Health Links (1-888-315-9257) or, if it's an emergency, call 911.
Ideally, self-isolation means halting all contact with others, and setting up a space dedicated solely to the person being isolated.
For those who live with others, you should try to segregate parts of the home. Do not use common spaces at the same time; stay out of the kitchen; dedicate a separate washroom to that person if possible, and don't share towels or toiletries.
Clean spaces where that individual has been and do not touch surfaces that person has touched before cleaning.
Only leave the home if it's absolutely necessary, such as to seek medical care.
If you must interact with others, keep it brief. Try to maintain a safe distance of two metres/six feet. Avoid people with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults.
Health officials say medical masks -- including surgical, medical procedure masks and respirators such as N95 masks -- should be reserved for health-care workers and others providing direct care for COVID-19 patients.
Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it, health officials said. However, wearing a non-medical mask or cloth that covers your mouth and nose can help your own respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces.
Health officials say for this reason, masks can be useful for short periods of time when physical distancing is difficult or impossible, such as while grocery shopping or using public transport.
If you choose to use a non-medical mask or face covering:
Face masks can become contaminated on the outside, or when touched by your hands. When wearing a mask or face covering, take the following precautions to protect yourself:
Health Canada offers instructions for simple sew and no-sew face coverings on their website.
Social distancing involves taking steps to increase the physical space between people to prevent the virus from spreading. Public health officials say this is key to reducing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Stay home as much as possible, and those who must go out should stay two metres away from others.
Other tips include avoiding crowds and going to public places during off-peak hours.
There's no vaccine, although researchers are working on it. The seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against coronaviruses.
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Antibiotics are not useful. Most people with mild symptoms recover on their own. People with more severe cases receive care to alleviate their symptoms.
Source: Health Canada, Manitoba Health, World Health Organization, The Associated Press.
Updated on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 4:43 PM CDT: Updated with latest information.
April 13, 2020 at 3:29 PM: Updates advice on wearing masks.
May 1, 2020 at 4:27 PM: Updates with latest testing criteria.
May 19, 2020 at 2:00 PM: Updates testing criteria.