What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS and now with this new virus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, abbreviated COVID-19.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Shortness of breath
What are the emergency warning signs?
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
How serious is it?
The complete clinical picture is not fully understood. For confirmed cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and information is being updated as it becomes available.
Information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, but older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.
How does it spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
- Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
What makes it different than influenza?
It's difficult to distinguish the difference because the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza - fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, fatigue and, occasionally vomiting and diarrhea. Both can cause pneumonia as well.
One of the biggest known differences is the incubation period of COVID-19 - the time from exposure to the development of symptoms and illness. COVID-19's incubation period ranges from 2 - 14 days, which is nearly three times longer than influenza. Also, COVID-19 seems to be more contagious.
One of the biggest concerns with COVID-19 is that people who are infected may show no symptoms for up to 14 days but still be able to transmit the virus to others. This makes it difficult to identify persons who need to be tested.
Unlike influenza, COVID-19 does not yet have a medication or a vaccine that people can take to treat or protect themselves. There are a number of efforts to create a medication, but none have been approved yet. A potential vaccine will not be ready for several months.
What’s the risk in West Virginia?
The West Virginia DHHR confirmed the state's first positive case of COVID-19 on March 17.
For the latest information in West Virginia, visit the DHHR’s COVID-19 response page or call the state's COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-887-4304.
What’s the risk in the U.S.?
Individual risk is dependent on exposure.
CDC is operationalizing all of its pandemic preparedness and response plans, working on multiple fronts to meet these goals, including specific measures to prepare communities to respond local transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. There is an abundance of pandemic guidance developed in anticipation of an influenza pandemic that is being repurposed and adapted for a COVID-19 pandemic.
What about other countries?
On Jan. 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). Global efforts at this time are focused concurrently on containing spread of this virus and mitigating the impact of this virus.
How many confirmed cases are there in the U.S. and other countries?
What can I do to protect myself?
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed.
Everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask:
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
What if I’m a healthcare provider?
CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19. More information is also available under the Healthcare Providers tab.
What if I’ve traveled to an at-risk area recently or I’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19?
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider, and tell them about your symptoms and your travel or exposure to a COVID-19 patient.
- Stay home except to get medical care.
You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
People: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
Animals: You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
- Wear a facemask.
You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with you should not stay in the same room with you, or they should wear a facemask if they enter your room.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
Throw used tissues in a lined trash can; immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
- Clean your hands often
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid sharing personal household items
You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
- Clean all “high-touch” surfaces everyday
High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
- Monitor your symptoms
Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening. Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19.
- Discontinuing home isolation
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.
What if someone in my household has COVID-19 symptoms?
Household members, intimate partners, and caregivers in a non-healthcare setting may have close contact with a person with symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 or a person under investigation. Close contacts should monitor their health; they should call their healthcare provider right away if they develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath).
What if I’m planning to travel outside the U.S.?
The CDC is offering a number of guidelines for travel.
How can I help fight stigma around COVID-19?
Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places or things. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease.
Viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities or racial backgrounds. People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.
Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support.
I'm stressed about the outbreak. What can I do?
- Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
- Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
- Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.
The CDC is also offering tips specifically for people with pre-existing mental health conditions, parents and responders.
As the University transitions to online instruction, access to Morneau Shepell for Online Students is also available for counseling. Also, students can also access a free crisis text line, 24/7 from anywhere by texting WVU to 741741.