If you’ve been watching the news at all recently, you have almost surely heard of COVID-19 or, as it is still more popularly known, the coronavirus. For some, it’s a running joke. For others, it’s the precursor to doomsday. The W.H.O. has officially declared it a pandemic event, stoking fears about the state of the economy in an already-tumultuous few weeks. Stores are running out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer as people across the world struggle to prepare, and schools and workplaces across the country are transferring workers from offices to their homes to prevent the spread of the disease. China and Italy are taking more drastic measures, quarantining those within their borders who test positive for COVID-19 in order to help slow the spread. How much of the panic is warranted, though, and what precautions should you take?
Bio-One Tucson, your resident experts in the fields of cleanliness, sterility, and all things related to disease eradication, stands ready to help.
What Is COVID-19?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that COVID-19 is a new disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, an abbreviation for the “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”. It is considered a “novel” coronavirus, or a new virus belonging to the coronavirus family. Despite the recent news stories about it, coronaviruses aren’t new; the current strain that began in Wuhan, China is what’s new. Much like the SARS-CoV-2 virus, many coronaviruses are transferred from animals to humans, although this specific ons has obviously also been shown to be incredibly contagious in person-to-person contexts, as well.
Because COVID-19 is so new, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about its long-term effects, how its spread, and how best to halt its steady spread across the world. We do know that it can incubate within a person for days before symptoms arise, and during this time, does leave them at risk of spreading COVID-19 further even before they begin to feel the effects. So be careful, and make sure that you limit contact with friends or loved ones if you can’t be sure your or they haven’t come in contact with someone who is sick.
How Is It Spread?
It is primarily spread through contact with the respiratory byproducts of the infected, inhaled when they cough or sneeze. The CDC isn’t convinced that this is the only way that the virus can spread, however, and because of that has recommended that you keep a 6-foot buffer zone between you and others. This “social distancing” tactic is meant to help by limiting the coughing or sneezing in your immediate vicinity and stop you from accidentally breathing the virus in.
What Are the Symptoms?
There are three main symptoms presented in COVID-19 patients:
Shortness of Breath
While these symptoms can occur due to allergies or the flu as well, there are some pretty big differences that could indicate whether what you’re dealing with is COVID-19, or something else entirely:
COVID-19 vs. Allergies
There’s a pretty good probability that it’s just seasonal allergies if your symptoms are coming and going. Allergies also don’t cause fevers — which is a pretty big indicator of COVID-19 — and generally doesn’t cause extended shortness of breath. This last symptom in particular, however, can obviously be brought on if you have asthma or some other pre-existing condition involving your lungs.
COVID-19 vs. the Seasonal Flu
The seasonal flu and COVID-19 have seen a lot of comparison over the past few months because of similarities in the symptoms they both cause. Differentiating between COVID-19 and the flu is a bit more difficult than COVID-19 and springtime allergies, as coughing and fever can be brought about by both.
In both instances, it’s a good idea to stay indoors and away from others until you stop coughing and your fever breaks unless you need medical assistance. If your illness doesn’t progress and you’re back to normal in 5-7 days, it was probably a mild case of the seasonal flu. If you don’t return to normal in about a week (with the exception of some coughing or other miscellaneous weakness, which may stick around for a week or two), seeking medical attention is in your best interest if you haven’t already. If you begin to become short of breath, it could be COVID-19, but it could also be the onset of pneumonia — both of these things will likely require medical intervention, so seeing your closest medical practitioner would be a good idea.
How Serious Is It?
Most COVID-19 cases are fairly mild. Most of the reported deaths have been a result of major complications in already at-risk populations, such as the elderly or those with severe unrelated health conditions, such as heart and lung problems, or those who are already immunocompromised.
While COVID-19 is spreading at a ferocious pace, most people probably don’t have to be too worried just yet. Listen to the CDC about how to put yourself in the least amount of risk: be careful, do your best not to spend time with those who are or could have been exposed to COVID-19, wash your hands, and avoid large crowds if at all possible.
Unfortunately, a vaccine will probably not be developed in the near future for COVID-19. Because of how little we know about COVID-19 and the fact that viruses can mutate incredibly quickly in ways that would make previous vaccinations useless, there are some that estimate that a reliable vaccine could take months or even years to develop properly.
If You Think You May Have COVID-19...
Call your local doctor’s office, if you’re suffering from more mild symptoms or fear that you may have become infected. Flocking to doctor’s offices en masse can spread the virus from those who actually have it to those who have the seasonal flu or even just a severe case of allergies and are worried.
Calling your local doctor’s office can help them to fit you into the schedule, so you’re not having to wait around for hours in an emergency room. This can minimize your risk of being around those with the virus, or your risk of spreading it if you’re the one who is infected.
If you have contracted COVID-19, it is recommended to quarantine yourself for up to two weeks to let the virus run its course. Since most cases are mild, there’s a good chance that you will be able to just get it out of your system, clean thoroughly, and then return to business as normal.
For most, there's no reason to panic. Be aware of COVID-19 and how to avoid it, but unless you’re in an at-risk demographic, there’s a good chance that you won’t need much to overcome it but the same treatment of rest, fluids and healthy foods that helps get you past the seasonal flu.
How Can I Avoid It?
The risk of contracting COVID-19 in Tucson and the surrounding areas is, at this point in time, pretty low. Especially considering the University of Arizona has temporarily closed its doors and is taking school online for the time being, and various other events around Arizona have been cancelled or postponed, the spread of the disease has been lowered pretty effectively in the area.
However, if you are scared, there are some pretty simple precautions you can take:
Wash Your Hands
While COVID-19 is primarily spread through saliva through coughing and sneezing, it can almost certainly be spread through other means, as well, including coming into contact with other people’s germs and then touching your face and accidentally inhaling the particulates.
This is why washing your hands is so important. You can be incredibly careful about not coming into contact with people, but if you aren’t careful about the surfaces you touch and touching your face afterwards, the chances of contracting an illness is much, much higher.
Stay Away from Crowds
While complete isolation may not be necessary, you can never know who is sick. Staying away from large crowds, gatherings of strangers, or those you don’t trust to quarantine themselves if they’re at risk is always going to be in your best interest in situations like these.
Unfortunately this may include cancelling or suspending travel plans, vacations, conferences, and other such activities that could put you at risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
Don’t Hog Sanitation Supplies!
We understand the desire to be safe, and to ensure that you have enough supplies to last throughout a quarantine — but at the same time, hogging supplies is just going to make it difficult to stop the spread of the disease. If others can’t ensure that they have the means to stop themselves from getting sick, the virus will just continue to spread, which puts those hogging sanitation supplies in more trouble than they would have been had they bought a reasonable amount instead.
It’s easy to let fear and panic drive our lives, but it rarely makes things better, so we should try to remember to keep our heads about us and do our part to keep our community safe. So don’t listen to those who act as if COVID-19 is a joke, but also don’t take those who think it’s a sign of impending doom seriously, either.
Keep safe, keep the CDC’s advice in mind, and take the necessary steps and precautions you need to take in order to avoid the risk of getting sick.
Want to Be Better Safe Than Sorry?
As a company that excels in sanitation and cleanliness, we are uniquely suited to offer advice on how to best prepare in order to not contract COVID-19. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have any questions that you need answered!