Anyone who has paid attention to the news recently has likely seen plenty of headlines about the coronavirus. For those who might not know, this strain of coronavirus (COVID 19) started in the southern Chinese city of Wuhan. From there, it spread across the country before spread to the rest of the world. Fortunately, with education, people can protect themselves. There are a few important facts that everyone needs to know.

1. Coronavirus May Have A Period of Hibernation

One of the reasons why coronavirus is spreading so quickly is that about 5% of patients will never develop symptoms but can still spread the disease.  Furthermore, it may hibernate within a few days before symptoms appear. The incubation period for this strain of coronavirus may be anywhere from two to 14 days, though the majority of patients who develop symptoms will do so within 5 days. 

This means that people might be infected with this virus and not know it. As a result, they may continue to go to work, school, and spend time around others before they start to show symptoms, if they ever do. This allows people to unknowingly transmit this virus to others around them.

2. Coronavirus Is a Respiratory Disease

The coronavirus is a respiratory virus. As a result, many of the symptoms are going to mimic other common respiratory viruses. Some of the most common symptoms of a coronavirus infection include:

· Running a fever, defined as a temperature of greater than 100.3

· A cough that worsens over time

· Shortness of breath

· Abdominal pain

· Chest pain

Of course, these symptoms are also typical of Influenza or even the common cold.  Therefore, it requires a visit with a doctor to determine which cases are of concern.  Some of these patients should be tested to see if they have the coronavirus, but not all of them.  Since the majority of patients with Coronavirus infection won’t need any specific treatment, and because testing supplies are limited, only certain patients qualify for testing.  These guidelines are established by the CDC and local public health officials and include the consideration of the physician evaluating the patient.

3. Prevent Coronavirus Spread With Proper Coughing and Sneezing Precautions

Because the most common way to spread coronavirus is through airborne particles caused by coughing or sneezing, people should always cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze. People should carry tissues with them at all times. Then, while coughing or sneezing, cover the nose and mouth with a tissue. Once finished, throw the tissue in the trash. Do not save it for reuse as this will only promote the spread of germs.  Immediately wash your hands after any cough or sneeze.

After a person coughs or sneezes in an enclosed space, the airborne droplets can remain for at least 3-4 hours.  Therefore, let indoor spaces air out before entering them after someone who is sick.

4. Prevent Coronavirus Spread With Handwashing

Although airborne droplets are the primary way Coronavirus is spread, it can also be spread when a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their own face.  Therefore, good hand hygiene can reduce both the amount of contaminated surfaces and the number who become infected by touching these surfaces. This means that people need to:

· Frequently wash hands with soap for 20 seconds

· Use alcohol based hand sanitizer

· Avoid touching your face

It is particularly important for people to wash their hands before eating and after coughing, sneezing or touching their face. If soap is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

5. Wearing facemasks reduces transmission of Coronavirus

When an infected person wears a mask, the amount of respiratory droplets produced when they cough or sneeze are greatly reduced.  This is true even of the thin, surgical style masks, though the N-95 types are more effective. In general, n-95 masks should be limited to healthcare workers or other high risk people since there is short supply.   

Likewise, all types of healthcare masks reduce the likelihood of a healthy person inhaling the infectious droplets and are appropriate for people to wear when in public, especially if the person is high risk or expects to be around someone with possible infection.

6.  Environment matters

Coronavirus doesn’t spread well outdoors or in warmer, more humid air.  Therefore, most spread of infection will occur in indoor spaces, but still requires fairly close or prolonged exposure.  If you must be indoors with people, limit the number of people in the room and try to remain at least 6 feet apart. Exclude anyone who is feeling ill, coughing or sneezing.  For high risk situations, wear a mask in these situations.

Education Provides Protection

When it comes to coronavirus, education provides protection. Keep these facts in mind, but beware that recommendations may change as research continues, so stay informed. Health officials are hard at work developing a vaccine and treatments; however, in the meantime, everyone needs to work together to prevent the spread of this illness. 

At CapRock Health System we are dedicated to serving our community during this growing time of crisis. Please read more on our Coronavirus Information page or click here to schedule at Telehealth appointment with one of our CapRock Health System providers.