April 7, 2020

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COVID-19 FAQ

How to protect yourself and others from infection as COVID-19 cases increase

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.

We thank our subscribers for their support, which allows us to provide this service.

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.
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.

 

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 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.

As of March 31, 62 per cent of all COVID-19 cases were related to community transmission, while 38 per cent were either exposed while travelling or exposed to a traveller returning to Canada.

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.

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.

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.

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.  If you're feeling literary, the first six lines of Lady MacBeth's, "Out, damned spot, out" soliloquy is also the right length.

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.

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.

A self-assessment tool is online to help Manitobans determine whether they need to call Health Links–Info Santé to possibly get a referral for testing or to self-isolate. The tool provides interactive advice to users concerned about whether they have contracted COVID-19. Self-assess online with the tool here.

If you are ill and you have recently travelled to an area affected by COVID-19, 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.

People in Manitoba who are directed to be tested will be asked to visit a community screening location. There are multiple locations across the province; see a full list here

These clinics are not walk-in clinics. Patients must receive a referral before going for a test.

If you have not gone traveled outside of Manitoba in the past 14 days or have not been in close contact with a confirmed case, and do not have a fever, cough or other symptoms of a respiratory illness, you do NOT need to be tested for COVID-19. 

How do I self-isolate?

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.

Should I wear a mask?

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)

Health officials say people with no respiratory symptoms do not need to wear a mask. It is not clear there is any significant benefit to wearing masks in community settings, says Manitoba Health.

The World Health Organization recommends masks only for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, medical workers and caregivers of people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Masks must be fitted properly and put on, taken off and disposed of carefully and properly to avoid infection.  And in some jurisdictions, masks are in short supply so their use should be limited to health-care workers and others around or working with infected people.

What is social distancing?

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.

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.  

 

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

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 4:43 PM CDT: Updated with latest information.

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