The term ‘coronavirus’ refers to types of viruses that generally affect the respiratory system and cause illness or disease. COVID-19 is a new disease caused by the latest strand of coronavirus. COVID stands for COronaVIrus Disease and is coded with 19 for the last two digits of the year in which it was discovered, 2019.
The virus spreads through people who are physically close to one another, generally within around 6 feet. The virus is carried through the air as respiratory droplets or particles from one person breathing, talking, coughing, sneezing, or singing in close vicinity of another person. If these droplets or particles are inhaled through the nose or mouth the virus can then spread through the body. It is also possible for droplets to transfer by touching a surface or object with infected droplets and then touching your own eyes, nose, or mouth, though this is less common. Indoor environments like restaurants, gyms, and classrooms with poor ventilation may spread these airborne droplets from one person to another.
Wearing masks is recommended in all public settings and may be required in many places where it is not possible to stay socially distant, meaning more than 6 feet apart from another person. It is possible to be infected with COVID-19 and not know, so wearing a mask can help protect others from any of your respiratory droplets. Surgical masks and N-95 masks are critical supplies required for healthcare workers and first responders. The general public should use alternate mask options that are widely available in stores and online.
If you believe you have COVID-19, you should stay at home except for when you might go for medical care. If there are others in the home with you, it is important that you isolate yourself from them as much as possible. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds whenever you cough, sneeze, touch your face, or prepare and eat foods. If you do not have frequent access to soap and water then hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is also recommended.
Some people may develop a more serious response to the virus and require immediate medical attention. Pay attention to your symptoms and get emergency medical care immediately if you experience any of the following: difficulty breathing, pressure or pain in your chest that won’t go away, difficulty staying awake, and if you notice your lips or face is developing a bluish tint. These are not all the possible symptoms of COVID-19 so it is important to contact your medical provider if you are concerned about your symptoms.
There are two main types of COVID-19 test results: if the virus is active in your system or if you have had the virus in the past. The first type of test is diagnostic so it uses a nose or throat swab to check for the active virus in your body. The second type of test looks for antibodies in your blood, which are specific proteins that your immune system developed when fighting the virus. If you believe you have the virus then a diagnostic test may be most appropriate. If you have had the virus in the past or are concerned about being asymptomatic, then an antibody test may be best.
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