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About the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Who is at risk?
What are its symptoms?
How is it spread?
How to prevent catching or spreading the virus?
What is still unknown?
Additional Information

Who is at Risk?

  • People over 60 seem to be hit hardest. (That includes almost everyone in The Villages, doesn't it?)

  • Those in nursing homes and assisted living places.

  • Smokers are more susceptible.

  • People with heart problems, diabetes, or lung issues like COPD are also at a higher risk for severe disease and death.

  • People who already have a weakened immune system from illness or treatments.

  • Health care workers are likely to be particularly vulnerable.

  • People who live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, as determined by CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) or WHO (World Health Organization).  

  • People who have had contact with someone who has COVID-19, like a family member or health care worker who takes care of an infected person.

What are its Symptoms?

The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. People who are older or who have existing medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung problems, or have compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of serious illness. This is similar to what is seen with other respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Some Patients may have:

  • Aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Many people recover within a few days. However, some people like the elderly or people with a weakened immune system may develop a more serious infection like bronchitis or pneumonia. Some people may have no symptoms at all and still be spreading the virus. Unfortunately, the U.S. has been slow in preparing for the virus and providing enough test kits to halt its spread. Consequently, limited availability of the kits and testing for COVID-19 has also led to the inevitability that more people will be contracting the virus and possibly dying from it. And while healthcare professionals wait for enough kits to conduct wider testing, infected people continue to infect all those around them. Once more test kits are available and processing time is improved, it will seem that the virus is running rampant. But don't panic. It is just because more people are being tested and cases confirmed.

Most Common Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Dry cough, possibly with a fever and shortness of breath

Severe Symptoms:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • High or very low temperature
  • Confusion
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe dehydration

Seek immediate attention if you experience severe symptoms. Treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

Source: Mayo Clinic

How is it Spread?

It's unclear exactly how contagious the new coronavirus is. It appears to be spreading from person-to-person among those in close contact. It may be spread by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes. People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person-to-person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. This is why it is important to stay more than 3 feet away from a person who is sick. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person, people touch these objects or surfaces, then touch their eyes, nose or mouth... so try to not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share updated findings.

How to Prevent Catching or Spreading the Virus?

Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommend following the standard precautions for avoiding respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow, or use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and discard it in a closed container.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren't clean.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you're sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch.
  • Stay home from work, school and public areas if you're sick.

CDC doesn't recommend that healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.
Only wear a mask if a health care provider tells you to do so. The face mask does not prevent you from getting the virus, but it does help to not spread the virus.

WHO also recommends that you:

  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or animal organs.
  • Avoid contact with live animals and surfaces they may have touched if you're visiting live markets in areas that have recently had new coronavirus cases.

Other recommendations include:

  • Keep yourself as healthy as possible:  get enough rest, exercise, eat well, and get the flu vaccine.
  • If not feeling well, it is better to stay home rather than expose people to an illness, especially those who may be at risk.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • If showing COVID-19 symptoms, self-quarantine to avoid passing illness on to others.
  • Distinctions between isolation and quarantine:
    • Isolation is used to keep a person who's already sick from infecting others.
    • Quarantine restricts the movement of someone who is exposed, but not yet sick.

Practice everyday prevention:

As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands and can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. To protect yourself, wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

Hand-washing Dos & Don'ts (from Mayo Clinic website):

Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food or eating.
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick person.
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses.

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food.
  • Using the toilet, changing a diaper or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet.
  • Touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste.
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick person.
  • Handling garbage.

How to wash your hands:

It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are no more effective at killing germs than regular soap. Follow these steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean, warm or cold running water.
  • Apply soap and lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or air-dry them.

How to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an acceptable alternative when soap and water aren't available. If you use a hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60% alcohol. Follow these steps:

  • Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand. Check the label to find out the appropriate amount.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.


What is Still Unknown?

While there is much we donít yet understand about the virus, public health officials, medical experts, and scientists are working in collaboration to learn more.

Source: Harvard Health Publishing (2/27/2020)

  • Incubation period is the time between being exposed to a germ and having symptoms of the illness. Current estimates suggest that symptoms of COVID-19 usually appear around 5 days on average, but the incubation period may be as short as two days to as long as 14 days.
  • A person without symptoms may be shedding the virus and possibly making others ill. How often transmission without symptoms is occurring is unclear.
  • How long the new coronavirus can live on a soft surface ó and more importantly, how easy or hard it is to spread this way ó isnít clear yet. So far, available evidence suggests it can be transmitted less easily from soft surfaces than frequently-touched hard surfaces like a doorknob or elevator button. According to the WHO, coronaviruses may survive on surfaces for just a few hours or several days,  although many factors will influence this, including surface material and weather.
  • We are still learning about transmission of COVID-19. Itís not clear if this is possible, but if so it would be more likely to be the exception than the rule. That said, COVID-19 and other coronaviruses have been detected in the stool of certain patients, so we currently cannot rule out the possibility of occasional transmission from infected food handlers. The virus would likely be killed by cooking the food.
  • Currently there is no specific antiviral treatment for this new coronavirus. Treatment is therefore supportive, which means giving fluids, medicine to reduce fever, and, in severe cases, supplemental oxygen. Bacterial infection can complicate coronavirus, which may require antibiotics in cases of bacterial pneumonia.
  • We donít yet know how deadly the virus might be. However, signs suggest that many people may have had mild cases of the virus and recovered without special treatment. The original information from China likely overestimated the risk of death from the virus. Right now it appears that the risk of very serious illness and death is less than it was for SARS and MERS. In terms of total deaths in the United States, influenza overwhelmingly causes more deaths today than COVID-19.
  • Scientists are working hard to understand the virus and Chinese health authorities have posted its full genome in international databases. Currently, there are no approved antivirals for this particular coronavirus, so treatment is supportive. For the sickest patients with this illness, specialized, aggressive care in an intensive care unit (ICU) can be lifesaving.
  • While we donít yet understand the particulars of how this virus spreads, coronaviruses usually spread through droplets containing large particles that typically can only be suspended in the air for three to six feet before dissipating. So itís likely that coughs or sneezes from an infected person may spread the virus. Itís too early to say whether another route of transmission, fecal-oral contact, might also spread this particular virus.

Periodically check WebMD's Latest Updates on the 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak.

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