On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus, a pandemic. Seemingly overnight, the world moved into a collective pre-panic.
Pandemic signifies that a disease has spread worldwide.
An epidemic, the previous classification of COVID-19, means that there are more cases of a disease than expected.
What We Know About COVID-19
Though you may be used to referring to COVID-19 as the coronavirus, the term coronavirus refers to a group of viruses which includes colds as well as more extreme viral infections. You might also hear it referred to as a novel coronavirus. That simply means that this virus hasn’t been previously detected.
It’s believed that the first case presented on November 17, 2019, in the Hubei Province of China. It was first reported to the WHO on December 31, 2019.
Currently, every continent except Antarctica has reported both imported and community-spread cases.
Imported means a person contracted the virus in one country, but it’s included in the country where it was detected.
Community-spread means the infected person did not travel but contracted the virus locally.
How do people catch COVID-19?
COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person. That means you can’t give or get it from your pets or through food or beverages.
But, we’re still learning about the virus and how it spreads. Most likely, it’s transmitted through respiratory droplets expelled through coughing or sneezing. When people inhale these droplets, they become infected. It may be transferred by touching surfaces with these respiratory droplets, then touching certain areas of your body, such as your face.
Because the exact transmission of COVID-19 is unknown, you’re advised to:
Limit social contact where possible
Wash your hands regularly [VIDEO: A visual explanation why the 20-second handwash is a must]
Sneeze or cough into tissues or your elbow to protect yourself and others
What are the symptoms? How long do they last?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
Dry cough (where you’re not releasing mucus)
Shortness of breath (usually in severe cases)While these are the most common symptoms, there are others, many of which resemble the common cold or minor flu. Symptoms may be almost unnoticeable to severe, and not everyone will present all symptoms.
The incubation period (time between exposure and the development of symptoms) could be anywhere from 2 days to 24 days, though many believe it’s less than 10 days.
Are there any precautions for people in high-risk groups?
Like any virus, coronaviruses can cause death. While the death rate for COVID-19 is relatively low, there are high-risk groups, including people:
Over 60 years of age
With existing chronic or severe conditions (such as cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis)
With compromised immune systems (including those with HIV)If you fall into a high-risk group, health authorities advise you to follow many of the same practices as others, including self-isolation and hand washing. However, extra vigilance and a call to your primary care doctor are advised.
What should you do if you think you have COVID-19?
If you develop symptoms, isolate (or self-quarantine) yourself at home.
Remember that each country has a different protocol for dealing with COVID-19. See if you can find yours before going to a hospital.
In the United States, the recommendation is to call your health care provider if you develop symptoms. Should you need emergency care, call 911 or the ER in advance of your arrival.
Potential cases in the UK are encouraged to self-isolate for 7 days and call NHS 111 only if their symptoms worsen or have difficulty breathing.
The same applies in Australia, where those experiencing trouble breathing should call 000.
South Africans can call the NICD helpline on 0800 029 999 if they believe they should be tested.
Additional COVID-19 Resources
Your health is important to us. While we aim to provide you with health news, these resources may have already answered your questions:
1. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for general and up-to-date information on what to do.
2. The NYTimes has a page dedicated to continuous updates – and you don’t need a subscription to access it.
3. Worldometer features a live update of cases by country.
4. An integrative physician’s approach to COVID-19 is a comprehensive page by Aviva Romm, MD, with especially useful information for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
5. The World Health Organization continues to roll out updates that also provide context for outbreaks as and when they occur.
1. Coronavirus Sanity Guide (Ten Percent Happier)
1. How to safely grocery shop in the time of corona (TIME Health)
1. A comic for exploring coronavirus with children (NPR)
2. How to talk to kids about coronavirus (NYTimes)
3. Art therapy: Lunch Doodles with Mo Williems (daily at 1pm EST)
Stuck at Home?
1. Visit Paris and tour the Louvre (free virtual tour)
2. Visit New York City and take in a performance at the Metropolitan Opera (free nightly streaming)
Going Out Safety
1. How to make a face mask (NYTimes)
2. What to do if someone is violating social/physical distance rules (TIME Health)
Lunch n Learn
1. Weekly Webinar Series (every Wednesday): Ensuring Equity in the Time of COVID-19
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