In a crisis, questions abound, and it can be difficult to feel like you have a grasp on the situation. We've gathered all of the most up-to-date information to answer all of your questions about COVID-19 so that you know what's going on, what you can do, and what to expect.
From interactive maps to best practices, to the questions you haven't thought of asking yet– here's what you need to know.
Q: What are the current numbers of infections?
A: Those numbers keep changing of course, so we're sharing this interactive map that shows cumulative confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries state-by-state and country-by-country. You can zoom in or out to see more or less of the world. It's updated continually and maintained by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. That means the information in this map will still be updated even after the post-date of this article.1
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Q: What is COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: COVID-19 has a range of possible symptoms and severities. Some cases are mild or asymptomatic, while more severe cases can result in pneumonia, respiratory distress, organ failure, and death.2
The most common symptoms are fever, fatigue, and mild respiratory symptoms like a dry cough. Most cases don't progress beyond these initial symptoms. 2
A study from the WHO-China Joint mission reported the following symptom breakdown based on data from nearly 56,000 laboratories confirmed COVID-19 patients in China:2
- 88 percent had a fever
- 68 percent had a dry cough
- 38 percent had fatigue
- 33 percent coughed up phlegm
- 19 percent had shortness of breath
- 15 percent had joint or muscle pain
- 14 percent had a sore throat
- 14 percent headache
- 11 percent had chills
- 5 percent had nausea or vomiting
- 5 percent had nasal congestion
- 4 percent had diarrhea
- Less than one percent coughed up blood or blood-stained mucus
- Less than one percent had watery eyes
- Some have also reported anosmia, or lack of sense of smell, and dysgeusia, or lack of taste
The risk of becoming severely ill or dying increases with age and the presence of underlying health conditions.
Q: What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
A: If you are experiencing symptoms call your healthcare professional or a local COVID-19 information hotline. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:3
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
Q: How long does an infection last?
A: After infection, it may take from one to 14 days to develop symptoms. Once symptoms have started, a mild case lasts about two weeks, while more severe cases can last from three to six weeks.3
Q: How is COVID-19 different from the flu?
A: The two diseases share many symptoms, notably fever and respiratory problems, as well as many of the symptoms listed above. However, they are caused by different viruses. While the flu is an endemic disease that returns each year, COVID-19 is caused by a new virus. Mortality rates for COVID-19 are still shifting as more data is collected.
The WHO reported a mortality rate of between 2-4% based on studies in China, but this figure was calculated by dividing the number of deaths by the number of confirmed cases.4 Because scientists expect that many people infected with the virus get only mild symptoms and never get tested, the actual mortality rate may be lower — around 1%.5
Comparison with the flu's mortality rate is not dependable, because official flu mortality rates are not calculated using laboratory-confirmed cases. They estimate the overall infection rate based on behavioral studies that show how often illnesses go unreported. They also assume that all respiratory-related deaths are caused by the flu.
For now, given the uncertainty of the flu's mortality rate and with the numbers we currently have, COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu.5
Q: Is there a vaccine or treatment?
A: While there are dozens of vaccine efforts underway, at this time there is no vaccine for COVID-19. There is research underway for treatments, but so far there are no new antiviral drugs available to treat COVID-19. The malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine has been recently used in some hospitals as a treatment for COVID-19, but to-date, there’s no conclusive evidence on its effectiveness.
Q: How does it spread?
A: Most coronaviruses spread from person to person on the droplets from coughs and sneezes. These infected droplets may enter the nose or mouth of another person from the air, or they may fall onto a surface or object that someone may touch. The virus can't be contracted through the skin, so even if someone touches an infected object, he or she must still touch the nose or mouth for the virus to infect the respiratory system.3
Q: Can COVID-19 be spread via food?
A: According to the USDA there is no evidence that COVID-19 transmits via food.6 However, the virus can live on surfaces. To reduce risk in case you get delivery of cooked meals, have the food dropped off at your door instead of handed to you.
Once your food is inside, replate it onto your own dishware, throw out the packaging, and wash your hands thoroughly before eating. You could take the additional step of reheating or microwaving your food to kill any rogue virus. Studies of other viruses (including a previously known coronavirus) found microwaving effective at destroying viruses in as little as 20 seconds. 7
Q: How long does it live outside of the human body?
A: The latest data on this topic is that the virus can live up to three hours on particles in the air, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, up to two or three days on plastic, and up to three days on stainless steel.8
Q: What is social distancing? Isolation? Quarantine?
- Social distancing is keeping a distance from other people (no handshakes, no touching, no crowds) and avoiding all gatherings of people to slow the spread of a contagious disease.
- Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movements of people who are not sick, but who may have been exposed to a contagious disease. This separation prevents them from spreading the disease in the event that they have contracted it.
- Isolation is used to separate and confine people who are sick with a communicable disease.
Q: How can I prevent the virus from spreading to me and/or others?
A: Social distancing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stay home as much as possible, and if you must go out (for groceries, medicine, etc.) stay six feet away from others at all times. Do not enter crowded spaces or attend gatherings of any kind. Regularly wash your hands and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.3
Q: What precautions should I take?
A: Practice social distancing, hand washing, and disinfecting as described above. Stay healthy by maintaining a nutrient-rich diet (likethe 80/20 pH-balanced diet recommended by the Save Institute) and getting regular exercise.
Q: How can I disinfect objects?
A: Household disinfectants are effective against SARS-CoV-2, as are solutions of at least 70% alcohol, and diluted bleach solutions. Always follow label precautions, ventilate the space you're disinfecting, and never mix chemicals or cleaning solutions. 9
Q: Is someone who recovers from a COVID-19 infection immune to it?
A: As of now there is no clear answer to this question. Scientists expect that recovery from an infection will leave the body with a degree of immunity, but it hasn't been established how long that immunity lasts or how complete it is.10
Q: For how long are symptomatic coronavirus carriers contagious?
A: Most likely they are contagious for 14 days, although, without symptoms like coughing, it’s less likely to spread the disease.3
What This Means To You
COVID-19 is dangerous, but by taking precautions we can protect ourselves and each other. The entire world is battling this virus, so no matter where you are, you are not alone. Your actions will make a difference in the outcome.
Stay home, engaged, informed, and positive. Together we will make it through this!