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COVID-19 FAQ

How to protect yourself and others from infection, and what to do if you think you have symptoms

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is seen in an illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020. (CDC via The Associated Press)

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is seen in an illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020. (CDC via The Associated Press)

The Free Press has made this story available free of charge so everyone can access trusted information on the coronavirus.

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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:

What is coronavirus or COVID-19?

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. 

 

What are the symptoms?

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.

Symptoms include:

  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • temperature equal to or over 38°C
  • feeling feverish
  • chills
  • fatigue or weakness
  • muscle or body aches
  • new loss of smell or taste
  • headache
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
  • feeling very unwell

Children have been more commonly reported to have abdominal symptoms, and skin changes or rashes.

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. Recent evidence indicates the virus can be transmitted by someone who is infected but not showing symptoms.  That includes people who are not yet showing symptoms, and those who never develop symptoms.

How sick will I get?

Most people diagnosed with COVID-19 experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority of those who show mild illness recover on their own.

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.

  

Is there a treatment or vaccine?

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.  

How does someone catch it?

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  (Photo illustration by Tim Smith / Brandon Sun)

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. (Photo illustration by Tim Smith / Brandon Sun)

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.

Recent evidence indicates the virus can be transmitted by someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. That includes people who are not yet showing symptoms, and those who never develop symptoms.

What if I start having symptoms?

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.

Public health officials have expanded testing criteria include all symptomatic Manitobans. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore throat. You are advised to take the online self-assessment test ahead of visiting a screening location
 

How do I self-isolate?

You must self-isolate if any of these conditions apply:

  • you are returning from travel outside of Canada. 
  • you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are waiting to hear the results of a lab test.
  • you have any symptoms of COVID-19 -- even mild ones.
  • you have been in contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • you have been told by public health officials -- directly, or through a self-assessment tool -- that you may have been exposed.

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. Do not use public transportation, such as buses or taxis. 

If you must interact with others, keep it brief. Maintain a safe distance of two metres/six feet and wear a non-medical mask or facial covering that completely covers your mouth and nose.  Avoid people with chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults.

 

How can people prevent infection?

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.

It is not clear there is any significant benefit to wearing masks to prevent influenza-like illnesses, including COVID-19, in community settings, says Manitoba Health. (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

It is not clear there is any significant benefit to wearing masks to prevent influenza-like illnesses, including COVID-19, in community settings, says Manitoba Health. (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

Should I wear a mask?

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.

Non-medical masks and face coverings help protect others from coronavirus.

Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a two-metre distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings such as stores, shopping areas and public transportation. In Manitoba, mask-wearing is recommended but not required. In some  jurisdictions, wearing masks is mandatory.

If you choose to use a non-medical mask or face covering:

  • ensure the mask is made of at least two layers of tightly woven fabric, and fully covers your mouth and nose.
  • wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (in addition to practising good hand hygiene while wearing it).
  • replace or launder your mask whenever it becomes damp or dirty.
  • discard masks that cannot be washed in a plastic-lined garbage bin after use.  Do not leave them behind in shopping carts, on the ground, etc., where someone else will have to handle them.

Health Canada offers instructions for simple sew and no-sew face coverings on their website.

Non-medical masks are not recommended for:

  • people who suffer from an illness or disability that makes it difficult to put on or take off a mask.
  • people who have difficulty breathing.
  • children under 2 years of age.

Health Canada advises people not to judge others for not wearing a mask, as they may not be able to do so.

 

Source: Health Canada, Manitoba Health, World Health Organization, The Associated Press.

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History

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.

July 9, 2020 at 4:13 PM: Updates with latest information.

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