There are seven strains of human coronavirus. Four cause common cold-like symptoms, and the other three can cause much more severe lung infections, such as pneumonia. The three more serious types are SARS-CoV-1 virus, MERS virus and the most recent one named SARS-CoV-2, which is currently causing a worldwide outbreak of infections and is referred to as COVID-19.
Where did COVID-19 come from?
The newest strain arose in China in December 2019 and is a bat strain of the coronavirus that mutated so it can now infect humans. Because the world’s population lacks immunity to the virus, and there is no current vaccine against it, COVID-19 infection spread wildly throughout China in December 2019 and January 2020.
This virus is spread through coughing, sneezing and spending time in close proximity to someone who is sick with COVID-19 infection (including those who may not show symptoms). The incubation period after exposure is between 2-14 days.
What are symptoms of COVID-19 infection?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Shortness of breath
People who have COVID-19 are less likely to have symptoms that are typical of upper respiratory infections, including a runny nose, nasal congestion or sneezing. More recent reports have suggested that some patients with COVID-19 will have these symptoms, either as a direct result of COVID-19 or another simultaneous respiratory infection. Some patients also report fatigue and body aches.
If you have known exposure to someone who has COVID-19, be extra vigilant of your symptoms. This virus is highly contagious and can live on surfaces for extended periods of time.
Symptoms may vary from mild to severe, but COVID-19 tends to be more severe in elderly people and those with weakened immune system.
Fortunately, medical reports tell us most people will have a mild case of coronavirus and will recover without special treatment.
What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?
Stay home if you think you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. We are providing free online and phone pre-screenings. You can:
- Call the MyLVHN Nurse Information line at 1-888-402-LVHN.
- Complete an eVisit (email visit with a provider) by visiting MyLVHN.org or your MyLVHN app.
- Complete an LVHN Video Visit by downloading the MyLVHN app.
We want to screen you via these technologies so that you remain in your own home and only need to leave if testing is needed. This pre-screening helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 and it helps keep your doctor's office open and available to provide other important care.
During the pre-screening, if our medical professionals determine you have COVID-19 symptoms, you will be directed to one of LVHN’s stand-alone COVID-19 Assess and Test locations. You will qualify for a test ONLY if you have symptoms (fever, cough and shortness of breath). The test detects active disease and cannot determine if you have been exposed. It is important to note that tests are reserved for those who need them most.
If you are sick, you also need to take precautions with those in your household:
- Separate yourself from family members and pets.
- Wear a surgical face mask. If you cannot wear a mask or have difficulty wearing one, your family member should wear a mask when within 6-feet of you. (They will need to be mindful of avoiding cross-contamination when removing the mask.)
- Cover your cough for the well-being of your family.
- Clean "high touch" fixtures every day (doorknobs, bathroom surfaces).
What is the treatment for COVID-19?
Although investigational drug studies are currently underway in China, at present there are no antiviral medications approved in the U.S. to treat or prevent COVID-19. Treatments that are currently used for patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are to help address symptoms such as fever or secondary bacterial pneumonia.
It is important to rest and stay hydrated. Consult with your primary care provider about using over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce your fever.
Preventing COVID-19 infection
How can I protect myself from COVID-19, or other viruses?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds all people to follow “respiratory hygiene,” meaning if you sneeze or cough, do so into the crook of your elbow to stop expelled droplets from traveling into the air. Regularly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
The CDC also recommends you:
- Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth)
- Avoid being in close proximity to people who are sick. Keep at least 6-feet away from other people.
- If you are caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19, have that person wear a face mask, or if they cannot, then you should wear a face mask, being mindful to not cross-contaminate yourself when you remove the mask.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating, after using the bathroom, or using a tissue to catch a sneeze, cough or blow your nose
- Clean commonly touched surfaces (refrigerator door handle, microwave, remote control, telephone, doorknobs, etc.)
I can’t find hand sanitizer, what should I do?
The best way to clean your hands is with soap and water. It is important to wash your hands long enough (20 seconds) to help remove germs from your skin and fingernails.
The CDC recommends these five steps:
- Wet your hands and then apply soap
- Lather your hands, including between your fingers and under nails
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds (Sing Happy Birthday song twice)
- Rinse hands under clean, running water
- Dry your hands with clean towel or air dry them