What Is a Novel Coronavirus?
A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that hasn’t been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) isn’t the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
What’s the Source of the Virus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. It’s rare, but animal coronaviruses have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Does the Virus Spread?
The virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were related to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading person-to-person.
The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in affected areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who aren’t sure where or how they were infected.
What’s Community Spread?
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who aren’t sure how or where they became infected.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
Some people infected with the COVID-19 virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include:
- Low-grade fever
- Body aches
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
COVID-19 can also cause more severe symptoms, such as:
- High fever
- Severe cough
- Shortness of breath
How Can Someone Who Has COVID-19 Spread the Illness to Others?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. A person who’s actively infected with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that these patients be isolated either at home or at the hospital (depending on how sick they are) until they’re better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.
How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision of when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis using these requirements:
- The patient is free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
- The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.
Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to be a risk to others.
Can Someone Who Has Been Quarantined for COVID-19 Spread the Disease to Others?
Quarantine means separating a person or group of people, in order to prevent the possible spread of the disease. A quarantine is appropriate when one (or more) person has been exposed to a contagious disease, though not developed illness (symptoms), to avoid infecting others who haven’t been exposed.
For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period for similar coronaviruses. Someone who’s been released from COVID-19 quarantine isn’t considered a risk for spreading the disease because they haven’t developed the disease during the 14-day incubation period.
Can the Virus that Causes COVID-19 Be Spread Through Food, Including Refrigerated or Frozen Food?
Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there’s no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. As always, it’s important to wash your hands for 20 seconds before preparing food.
In general, because of the poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there’s likely a very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.
Will Warm Weather Stop the Outbreak of COVID-19?
It’s not yet known whether warmer temperatures will affect the spread of COVID-19. Other viruses, like the common cold or flu, spread more during the cold weather months, but doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.
As of now, there is a lot more to learn about the transmissibility, severity and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself and Others from COVID-19?
Practice the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact (within six feet) with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects with standard household cleaners.
Should I wear a face mask?
Face masks aren’t recommended for the general public in the United States. If you have respiratory symptoms like coughing or sneezing, experts recommend wearing a mask to protect others.
Don’t let the fear of exposure prevent you from getting the care you need.
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WHO (World Health Organization)