For many Americans, COVID-19 was an illness that people were getting in China. Nothing to worry about here. No one thought we would find ourselves quarantined during a global pandemic just months after the first case hit the media in December of 2019. Most of us thought “it” would never be a problem in the states.
We thought wrong.
What is “it”?
“It” is COVID-19, a strain of Coronavirus. The virus finds its way into your lungs and airways. This highly infectious respiratory disease was found in gravely ill patients in China in December of 2019 and has now become a global pandemic. “It” has changed everyday life as we know it. The key to staying sane and healthy during this somewhat frightening time in our world is knowing what “it” is and how it works.
How Does the Virus Spread?
The main source of contamination is believed to be person-to-person contact. This can occur when people are in close contact of less than six feet apart or through droplets that are produced when someone sneezes or coughs. If the droplets are inhaled into the mouth or through the nose of another person who is nearby or inhaled directly into the airway, contamination can occur.
People can be asymptomatic and still carry the virus and spread it. The highest level of contagion is believed to be when people are the most symptomatic, though.
It is possible for a healthy person to touch a surface after someone with COVID-19 has sneezed or coughed into their hand and then touched that surface to become infected. Picture this: you’re in line at the grocery store keeping your social distance from the person in front of you. This person sneezes into their hand and then uses the same hand to push buttons on the point-of-sale machine to finish their transaction. Your turn. You slide your card and touch the same spots the person before you touched. Your eye itches, and you instinctively rub it with the same hand you just used to put your pin number in with. Get the picture?
Initially, healthcare workers were only concerned if someone had been travelling. COVID-19 seems to be aggressively community spread, which is why it is vitally important to take strict Coronavirus droplet precautions to protect yourself and others. The spread is easy and sustainable within geographical areas filled with cases who have no idea how or where they became infected.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Currently there is no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. The best way to avoid being infected is to avoid exposure. Most of our nation is on “stay at home”, “shelter in place”, or “quarantine” orders from the local government. This is an effort to stop the spread of the disease from person-to-person or surface contact.
People still have to leave their homes, though. Some have jobs that are essential and cannot be done from home. Going out for food or medical supplies will be needed. When going out, remembering to keep a social distance from people around you is critical. This means a six-foot bubble around you. If someone is in your bubble, try to create space between the two of you.
Be sure to wash your hands frequently for at least twenty seconds each time. If you have been in a public place and cannot wash your hands or utilize hand sanitizer, do not touch your face at all (especially your eyes, nose, and mouth).
If a family member is sick, he/she should be in a room away from the rest of the family. Disinfect the surfaces in your home frequently. The surfaces most touched in your home should get the most attention such as:
- Light switches
You can make your own disinfectant by adding 1/3 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Do not reuse spray bottles that have had other cleaning solutions in them, as chemical mixtures can be caustic. Be sure to crack a window in your home while disinfecting for ventilation.
Globally we have seen COVID-19 cases that ranged from mild in severity to fatal. Some cases only experience a fever and a cough while others are put out ventilators to help them breathe. It is believed that the symptoms of the disease will appear two to fourteen days after exposure. It’s important to remember that there are asymptomatic carriers (people who carry the virus but have no symptoms).
The most common symptoms of the illness are:
- Shortness of breath
Be aware that no list of symptoms can be all inclusive, but you should seek medical attention immediately if:
- An abnormal state of confusion sets in
- There is painful pressure in the chest that is persistent
- The lips or face turn blue
- Difficult or painful breathing is an issue
How to get Tested
There are lab tests that can determine if a person has contracted COVID-19. Health departments on the state and local level have received tests dispersed by the CDC. The tests are all Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panels that provide results within four to six hours.
Everyone does not need to have a test for COVID-19. Many of the people who contract the disease experience mild illness and can recover at home. There is no treatment for COVID-19 as of yet. The CDC has released guidelines as to who should be tested but decisions regarding who is getting tested are at the discretion of health departments at the state and local levels.
If you suspect you may have COVID-19, call your local health department for guidance on where you can go to be tested. Understand that it may be difficult to get tested as soon as you would like, because there are criteria as to who gets tested.
What to do if You’re Sick
If you are showing symptoms of having even a mild flu or cold, stay at home. Do not venture out for any reason other than to seek medical care. If your symptoms become critical, call 911 and alert the dispatcher that you think you may have COVID-19.
If you go to the doctor, you should let them know at the time of the appointment that you have/may have COVID-19. Always wear a face mask when you are around other people. Even within your home, you should isolate yourself from the rest of the family. You should not share dishes or eating utensils as well as linens. Any items that are exposed to the virus should be washed thoroughly immediately.
Enjoy Your Home
This is a frightening time for our nation. We are not accustomed to pandemics and quarantines. Try to make the best of this time. Make a meal you have been meaning to make but haven’t had the time. Turn on music and dance. Binge watch your favorite television show. Try not to worry. Try not to stress. Take advantage of social media. Play games with your friends. If you find yourself afraid of what is happening, there are telehealth professionals available. Isolation does not mean you have to feel isolated.