Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Amid the growing concern about COVID-19 and how lethal it is proving to be, are the persistent questions about how it spreads and how a person contracts the virus. The messaging from the federal government varies significantly from the way states and cities are handling the spread and containment of the virus.
Who do you believe? How should we respond to the virus in our homes? How do we go about our lives, shopping for groceries, and interacting with people in our lives who still have to show up for work? On top of all, this is anxiety that many people feel about their future health and ability to stay afloat financially if the pandemic stretches beyond a few more months.
Governor Andy Beshear has taken steps to stem the tide against the potential rise in infections and the coming rise in diagnoses. The surge in confirmed infections will occur once citizens can get tested. In fact, many may already be infected but have no noticeable symptoms; in other words, be “asymptomatic.” We must remember that a diagnosis is not a death sentence, as many people have no or very mild symptoms.
While some people who contract the COVID-19 will present with mild symptoms, they may infect others who suffer the worst of the virus. What do we need to know and do to help ourselves, those we love, and our neighbors?
Knowledge and knowing what to do is half the battle. Let’s address four (4) questions
What is Coronavirus?
How is Coronavirus or COVID-19 spread?
How does a person contract the virus?
What can we do to keep ourselves as safe as possible?
The Norton Healthcare System website offers the following information that answers the above questions.
Norton Healthcare’s Erica Coghill discussed the new coronavirus with two Norton Healthcare physicians, including our system epidemiologist.
Here’s a COVID-19 Q&A with James M. Frazier, M.D., vice president, medical affairs and quality, Norton Healthcare; and Paul S. Schulz, M.D., infectious diseases physician with Norton Infectious Disease Specialists and system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare.
What’s the difference between coronavirus and COVID-19?
Dr. Frazier: Coronavirus is actually a family of viruses. There are several coronaviruses, and they’ve been around for a long period of time. They’ve been known to cause common colds for a long time. COVID-19 is actually a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2. This is a novel coronavirus. It’s only been around for about three months, and we’re still learning quite a bit about it; but it’s part of a bigger class of viruses.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Dr. Frazier: Most of the time what we’re seeing are more upper respiratory symptoms. A lot of times fever, but not always. Cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, maybe a scratch in your throat. Gastrointestinal symptoms are less frequent, but we’ve seen that as well.
How is COVID-19 transmitted and how long does the virus live in the air or on surfaces?
Dr. Frazier: There are two main ways that we believe it is transmitted. One is by droplet or airborne spread, and the other is by contact. We think right now that the coronavirus lives in the air for several hours and on surfaces for up to six or seven days, which is one of the reasons why we feel like it’s so contagious.
If someone with the virus sneezes, we think you could walk into the room even after they’re gone and potentially still be infected, particularly if you make contact with an infected surface.
Why the ‘6 feet rule’?
Dr. Schulz: The idea of the “6 feet rule” is that it’s going to help prevent contact with a droplet, and if there is any aerosolization of the organism, you should be far enough away that you’re not infected. But some of this with this new virus remains uncertain.
What can I do to avoid getting it?
Dr. Schulz: Frequent hand washing, cough etiquette, and staying away from crowds. For sure, stay away from people who you know are ill.
If you are ill, stay away from other people.
All those things apply to this and aren’t really that different. We don’t have a vaccine, unfortunately, but that’s a possibility maybe later on this year. But for now, it’s the basics of preventing transmission of a virus.
Dr. Frazier: You can avoid getting COVID-19 by the typical measures that you would avoid any other virus. Hand hygiene is extremely important. Obsessively washing your hands and using hand gel, wiping down surfaces in your office as well as your home, practicing social distancing, maintaining a 6-foot radius from other folks whenever you possibly can. Avoid large gatherings; try to maintain your space inside your own house as much as you possibly can. Again, not sharing drinks with other family members and washing your hands. I can’t stress that enough.