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Infectious Diseases >
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect animals (including bats) and humans. Some strains of coronavirus cause respiratory illness in humans each winter. These infections usually cause mild illness like the common cold. In December 2019, a new type of coronavirus infection (COVID-19) was identified in patients with severe pneumonia in Wuhan, China. This new virus is closely related to bat coronaviruses and to the SARS coronavirus that caused an outbreak in 2003.
COVID-19 is similar to the flu in many ways. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and older adults are more likely to have severe symptoms. Symptoms include:
-Fever or chills
-Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
-Muscle or body aches
-Loss of taste or smell
-Nasal congestion or runny nose
-GI symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain
Many COVID-19 infections are mild, and some do not cause any illness. In China, about 20% of patients with COVID-19 developed severe or life-threatening illness. Older adults and people with chronic diseases have the highest risk of severe illness or death. About 1% to 2% of people with confirmed COVID-19 have died. It is hard to determine the true death rate among all cases, since the actual number of cases is larger than the number of diagnosed cases. The risk of death from COVID-19 is substantially higher than seasonal flu. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top US health official, estimates that COVID-19 is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu.
COVID-19 appears to spread just like the flu. You can become infected be being close to someone who is infected, even if that person does not appear to be sick. Talking, coughing and sneezing can spread the virus to nearby people, especially in closed indoor spaces. The risk is highest after prolonged contact in an enclosed space, including households, nursing homes, and large workplaces. The virus can survive from a few hours to 2-3 days on objects. Frequent handwashing is important since COVID-19 spreads when people touch a contaminated object and then touch their face. COVID-19 cannot cause infection through the skin.
This is a new virus in humans, and no one is immune until they have been infected. Older adults have the highest risk of serious COVID-19 illness, especially those with chronic disease. Children can become infected with COVID-19 but serious complications are rare. People who have recovered from COVID-19 likely have some immunity, but the duration and level of protection is unknown. Most antibody tests have not been approved, and the presence of antibodies does not necessarily indicate protection from infection.
You can learn more about the COVID-19 testing offered by Marshfield Clinic Health System by
-Avoid groups and stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Remember that people can spread COVID-19 before symptoms start.
-Stay home all the time except for essential travel for food and supplies.
-If you must leave home, wear a cloth facemask in public places where people are present.
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
-Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw it in the trash.
-Do not shake hands.
-Regularly clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that people touch using regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
-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. Wash your hands right away after returning home.
-If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
CDC recommends wearing a cloth facemask (not a medical facemask) in public places such as grocery stores and pharmacies. COVID-19 can spread from people who do not feel sick, and the risk may be reduced if everyone wears a cloth facemask in public. People with symptoms of COVID-19 should wear a mask at home to protect household members. Caregivers should also wear a mask while taking care of someone with possible COVID-19.
Vaccines are already in development, but there are many challenges. A vaccine must first be tested in animals and humans to make sure it is safe and effective. It will then take time to produce millions of vaccine doses. In the best case scenario, a vaccine might be available in 1-2 years.
Be sure to rely on a trusted source for accurate COVID-19 information. These include the CDC, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Minnesota Department of Health and the World Health Organization:
The situation is changing daily, and we regularly update our COVID-19 hub with the recommendations, MCHS updates and key resources you need to protect you and your family.
Telehealth from home appointments help you stay connected with your provider. We’re here to help answer possible concerns you may have. Read more
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