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Answers to nearly 50 pressing questions about the coronavirus

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GENERAL QUESTIONS

What are the symptoms?

Fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing are hallmarks of coronavirus.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from two days to two weeks after exposure, the CDC says, though some patients haven’t shown symptoms at all.

The illness varies in its severity, and many patients can recover at home in isolation.

Older adults — ages 60 and older — and people with severe chronic illnesses are more likely to get seriously sick from the coronavirus.

Learn more about the difference between flu, coronavirus and allergy symptoms here. (CNN Health)

How does it spread?

It primarily spreads between people through respiratory droplets — think coughs, sneezes and spittle.

You can also get coronavirus by touching infected surfaces, then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

Learn how to not touch your face here. (CNN Health)

How long does coronavirus stay “alive” on surfaces?

Up to three days, depending on the surface. According to a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health:

  • The new coronavirus is viable up to 72 hours after being placed on stainless steel and plastic.
  • It was viable up to four hours after being placed on copper, and up to 24 hours after being put on cardboard.
  • In aerosols, it remained viable for three hours. (CNN Health)

Why is the disease called COVID-19?

On Feb.11, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”. (CDC)

Is there a cure? Why is it taking so long?

There’s currently no cure for the novel coronavirus. And while research is underway, it could be more than a year before a vaccine becomes available.

An antiviral drug must be able to target the specific part of a virus’ life cycle that is necessary for it to reproduce, according to Harvard Medical School.

“In addition, an antiviral drug must be able to kill a virus without killing the human cell it occupies. And viruses are highly adaptive.” (CNN Health)

Once you have coronavirus, will you have it forever?

The American College of Physicians found it takes five to 12 days for symptoms to show. They said more than 97% of people will show symptoms within 12 days. This fits the CDC recommended 14-day quarantine to show symptoms and then take time to recover from illness. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can we kill it by inhaling boiling water steam? Like in India they use this during flu and cold or cough.

The WHO says this will not work to kill a virus that’s already entered your body.

Myth-busting: Which of these DIY home remedies for coronavirus are actually effective? (Haley Hernandez, KPRC Channel 2 Health Reporter)

Can you have coronavirus without upper respiratory symptoms?

“Every human has a unique biology that will react to the virus in its own unique way,” wrote Nriagu. “So, Yes, you can have COVID-19 without classic upper respiratory symptoms. Symptoms associated with COVID-19 are generally ‘flu-like,’ which encompasses a broad range of symptoms including fever, headache, muscle aches, cough, runny nose, and fatigue.” (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

HEALTH QUESTIONS

How do you know someone is recovering from coronavirus?

According to Harris County Public Health, the patient has to be free and clear of any symptoms. Then, the patient has to have a negative test result for the virus and then be tested again in 24 hours. After the patient tests negative both times, they are considered recovered. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

I have a mammogram, sleep study, dental visit, etc. should I reschedule?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages the people in our community most vulnerable to coronavirus to stay home as much as possible, avoid crowds and reschedule nonessential doctor appointments. The vulnerable population includes people 60 and older, people who have weakened immune systems and people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.

For them, the CDC said appointments like general physicals, check-ups, follow-ups for a stable condition or an elective procedure can be rescheduled, or make the appointment virtual instead, meaning they encourage calling a telemedicine doctor from home.

As for dental visits, check out this report. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Will ibuprofen worsen the virus?

There was a lot of concern after the French Minister of Health tweeted to avoid anti-inflammatories because they might worsen an infection. However, the World Health Organization told NBC News they are not aware of data that’s true.

If you are concerned, experts say you can take acetaminophen to control a fever, one of the main symptoms of the virus. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Is coronavirus especially harmful to pregnant women?

Long story short: There’s not enough data yet, considering this coronavirus just emerged in humans a few months ago.

The vulnerability of “older adults” has been well documented, but researchers “do not have information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women” to this coronavirus, the CDC says.

“Adverse infant outcomes” like premature births have been reported among infants born to mothers who’ve tested positive for coronavirus during pregnancy, the CDC says. But it’s not clear if these outcomes were related to maternal infection, so the risk is unknown. (CNN Health)

What are the hospital CEO’s doing to provide beds ... will they be ready if there is a spike of coronavirus patients?

That’s exactly why these drastic measures are being taken. When you hear “flatten the curve,” it is because leaders need to bring down the number of potential coronavirus cases (below the curve) to a number that hospitals can handle. This entire “hype” is because of hospital beds. We see this happening in other countries and it’s the reason China has a high number of deaths. There were not enough hospital beds and there may not be enough in America either. Click here to learn more about flattening the curve. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If I visited an emergency room in the past couple of weeks, how would I know if I’m at risk?

Rest assured that over the last few weeks, most hospitals have been working to monitor and isolate patients and visitors with travel-related risk factors or potential contact with infected people.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and visited an ER within the last two weeks, contact your local medical provider for guidance.

Does donated blood get infected by the coronavirus?

At least 4.5 million Americans need donated blood every year, but this is the first time novel coronavirus has been a concern in the nation’s blood supply.

“Individuals are not at risk of contracting COVID-19 through the blood donation process or via a blood transfusion since respiratory viruses are generally not known to be transmitted by donation or transfusion,” said the AABB, formerly the American Association of Blood Banks. (CNN Health)

What if you do have some of the symptoms? Like a cough and sore throat? No fever. No runny nose. Do you go to a doctor? Call the health department?

No, do not go to the doctor. You are considered low risk. Low to moderate risk patients are not being tested for Covid-19 at this time. Self quarantine is recommended until tests become available, but contact your local primary care provider for guidance. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

I am wondering why the CDC isn’t testing more for the coronavirus?

The tests, labs and equipment necessary to run tests for COVID-19 are limited. Production is ramping up, though. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Is there an eventual plan to test people without a doctor’s order?

Currently CDC guidelines make it clear that Americans can be tested with a doctors order. Because test supplies are limited, those who are severely sick or who were in contact with known cases of COVID-19 are prioritized. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Could we all be silent carriers at this point?

Clinical research supports the idea of “sub-clinical” carriers ... patients with mild disease. But silent carriers have not been identified. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

How do we know if we need to be tested for COVID-19? It is flu and allergy season right now.

If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, shortness of breath) and have been in contact with an individual with a known case of COVID-19 then you should assume that you have COVID-19, self-isolate and contact your local (health) provider for guidance. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If I get a pneumonia vaccine, will that help protect me from coronavirus?

Some cases of coronavirus do lead to pneumonia. But the pneumonia vaccine won't help.

“Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, only help protect people from these specific bacterial infections,” according to Harvard Medical School. “They do not protect against any coronavirus pneumonia.” (CNN Health)

Can I have the flu and coronavirus at the same time? If I test positive for the flu, does that mean I don’t have coronavirus?

Lots of readers are asking this since it’s difficult to get coronavirus testing in many areas.

But there’s no reason why you can’t have both the flu and coronavirus. So a positive test for the flu doesn’t mean you can’t have coronavirus as well. (CNN Health)

If a person gets well after having COVID-19, could their blood be used to make a vaccine since they have antibodies now?

Currently, there are no vaccines or drugs available to treat COVID-19. There are many in rapid development and some may be available in a short time. Human convalescent serum is an option for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and that could be rapidly available when there are sufficient numbers of people who have recovered and can donate immunoglobulin-containing serum. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can the flu vaccine be helpful for one’s immune system with the coronavirus?

The flu vaccine is designed to prevent infections with the influenza virus which are very different from the coronaviruses. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If you go to a Quest lab for a blood test for other reasons do you run the risk of being at the lab with someone being tested for COVID-19?

Quests in-office phlebotomists do not collect respiratory specimens, including those from patients suspected of having COVID-19. Patients’ samples can only be collected by a healthcare provider. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

FAMILY QUESTIONS

Will spraying yourself or your children with disinfectant help?

A viral video from CNN affiliate WHBQ showed a man spraying a student with what appeared to be disinfectant spray after school.

But spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body "will not kill viruses that have already entered your body," the World Health Organization says.

“Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.” (CNN Health)

Should I social distance from my spouse?

The U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services says kissing is likely the easiest way to spread the virus but it is not sexually transmitted. Therefore, they advise people to still practice social distancing at home but I understand how unrealistic that can be. Just be aware that if one of you got Coronavirus the other would be at a greater risk of getting/having it and you would certainly need to self-isolate if you tested positive.

My favorite guide on how to self-isolate is here. (Haley Hernandez, KPRC Channel 2 Health Reporter)

Seniors are the most vulnerable to coronavirus, doctors say. The concern is those with underlying medical problems face a greater risk of developing severe life-threatening complications if they catch coronavirus. How should they decide whether or not to go to the doctor’s office?

They should call their doctor first. They will walk through their symptoms with them and let them know whether it’s time to seek care from their physician in the office or if they need to go to the hospital to be seen. (Dr. Angela Shippy, Memorial Hermann Hospital)

If you have to self-quarantine in your home with family in a separate room, can the virus travel through the duct system?

“There is no evidence that suggests that COVID-19 can spread through duct systems,” wrote Nriagu. “Preliminary studies are showing that the main way the virus is spread is through respiratory droplets spread through coughing, touch, and sneezing within a fairly close range of people.” (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

If you end up with the coronavirus, do you isolate yourself in a room in your house? Or do you just keep yourself at home with your family?

Disease experts estimate that each COVID-19 sufferer infects between two to three others. Distance yourself from family members infected with coronavirus. Wash hands and disinfect surfaces regularly. (Vivian Nriagu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can I get coronavirus from my pet, or vice versa?

“No. There is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes Covid-19,” the World Health Organization says. (CNN Health)

CLOSURES QUESTIONS

Do the closures include gyms?

The White House said states with evidence of community transmission should close bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate. Now online workouts are on the rise. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Are we here in Texas the only ones experiencing the closing of schools, bars, clubs, are others having issues with grocery stores?

The entire planet is currently affected or worried about coronavirus. Currently, countries such as China and Italy are on lockdown. San Francisco has taken the most extreme measures to protect people against the virus. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

What are the risks when daycares don’t close during this time?

Preliminary data suggests that children can be infected by COVID-19 but do not appear to become very ill when infected. The death rate in children between 0-9 years of age is currently at 0%. The death rate in children between 10-19 years is currently 0.2%. Children are definite spreaders of COVID-19. If we do not close daycares, kids may become infected with COVID-19, some kids (especially those with pre-existing conditions) may die and COVID-19 will continue to spread in the U.S. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

DAILY LIFE QUESTIONS

Can I still get my car serviced right now?

There are only restrictions for businesses where people congregate. Other organizations may recommend closing to keep people from gathering but there are no government orders to shut down across the state. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Paper money/coins can still be used even though they’re dirty. What should I know about paying during the coronavirus crisis?

According to the Federal Reserve, the lifespan of certain bills can be up to 15 years, giving cash a lot of time to accumulate germs but with new concerns around the coronavirus, new questions are being raised over how you should pay for things without contracting or spreading any illnesses.

When it comes to cash, the World Health Organization did not issue any warnings over using cash but they do say it’s important to remember to disinfect after handling it. Part of the reason using cash isn’t anymore dangerous than other forms of payment is because according to doctors, if you stick to contactless payments but don’t wash your hands after touching your phone, credit card or a payment terminal, you are still at risk of contracting a potential infection. If you or the person handling your form of payment is wearing gloves, make sure to change them often and continue to wash your hands, otherwise you’re just spreading germs with your gloves instead of your hands. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

What about placard and car registration renewals?

Governor Greg Abbott said to help keep people healthy and out of the public, he’s also waiving vehicle registrations, titles, and placard renewal rules. People can still renew their registration online. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

How do I stay healthy when using Uber or Lyft?

Both rideshare companies said they’re actively trying to protect customers and drivers from coronavirus.

Uber said it is trying to give drivers with disinfectants to help keep their cars clean, and the company “may temporarily suspend the accounts of riders or drivers confirmed to have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19.”

Lyft announced a similar policy: “If we are notified of a rider or driver testing positive for COVID-19, they will be temporarily suspended from using Lyft until they are medically cleared.” (CNN Health)

With all that is going on, I have not heard anything about helping the homeless.

The CDC is advising that people in shelters sleep head to toe and use temporary barriers, like curtains, between beds. Click here for more details on how this is impacting the homeless population. (CNN Health)

Should I start keeping extra food and supplies?

Yes, because you or a family member might suddenly have to quarantine. But it's a good idea to always have extra food and medication anyway.

"Consider keeping a two-week to 30-day supply of nonperishable food at home," Harvard Medical School says. "These items can also come in handy in other types of emergencies, such as power outages or snowstorms."

In addition, try to keep at least a 30-day supply of prescription medication and any needed over-the-counter medication. (CNN Health)

OUTDOOR AND TRAVEL QUESTIONS

Is it true that COVID-19 does not like warm/ hot weather?

The temperature has an impact on people’s living environments and could play a significant role in social distancing. Officials at the WHO said on March 5 that there is no reason to believe temperature will play a role in the outbreak. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can bugs and or insects carry the virus?

COVID-19 is new and there are a lot of unknowns. However, the health department said they do not believe insects will carry this virus. They make this prediction based on how other viruses in the Coronavirus family act. Examples of other Coronaviruses include SARS and MERS. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)

Can you get coronavirus by eating food that was prepared in a room where someone with the virus sneezed or coughed?

“There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted via food,” wrote Nriagu. “However, theoretically it could happen. There are strict guidelines that restaurants have to follow to ensure food safety and reduce the spread of all germs. These guidelines include washing hands and disinfecting surfaces.” (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Can hand dryers kill coronavirus?

No, bathroom hand dryers can’t kill coronavirus, the World Health Organization says. Doctors say the best ways to protect yourself include:

Is it safe to travel via plane considering the dangers of spreading the infection?

Transmission of infection in airplanes may occur between passengers who are seated in the same area of an aircraft. This is usually as a result of an infected individual coughing or sneezing or by touch. This is no different from any other situation in which people are in close proximity to each other. Travelers should disinfect the area where they are seated, wash their hands often, avoid touching their face and try to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing. Most modern aircraft have re-circulation systems that recycle up to 50% of cabin air. The re-circulated air is usually passed through HEPA filters (used in hospitals and ICU’s). These filters can trap dust particles, bacteria, fungi and viruses. (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

Should I avoid public transportation?

If you rely on public transportation, use caution. If you’re sick or live in an area where an outbreak has been reported, avoid it.

Mass transit could increase your risk of exposure to coronavirus. Many transit systems are upping their cleaning regimens — notably Houston’s METRO. (CNN Health)

Is it safe to take kids to a playground?

“Children can be infected by COVID-19 (but do not appear to become very ill when infected) and are definite spreaders of COVID-19,” wrote Nriagu. “As such, consider play dates in the yard where there are fewer places for germs to collect, reduce interpersonal contact, consider outside activities like biking or hiking where sport equipment aren’t shared and its easier to keep a good distance from each other. Use bleach on all surfaces to disinfect.” (Vivian Nrigu, MD, Partner/Owner Memorial Village Emergency Room)

What is happening to Meals on Wheels recipients?

Meals on Wheels is still working, according to their website. (Haley Hernandez, Health Reporter)