Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates
How does COVID-19 spread?
This virus is spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This occurs between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Droplets from coughing or sneezing can land in your nose or mouth, or on nearby surfaces. The virus can also be spread by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly your eyes. Avoid unnecessary contact (e.g. shaking hands) and perform hand hygiene before and after patient contact and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces to prevent spread.
How can I prevent the spread of infection?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Alcohol-based hand rubs are a quick and effective way to sanitize your hands Avoid close contact with sick people
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Cover your cough or sneeze with disposable tissue
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
What does “flatten the curve” mean?
“Flatten the curve” refers to the rate of COVID-19 infection over time. Implementing social distancing, stay-at-home orders and other measures can help “flatten the curve” by reducing the number of people who are infected within a specific time period. A slower infection rate also lowers the demand for health care services at any one time and spreads this demand over a longer period. The goal is for the need for healthcare services never to exceed the capacity of our healthcare resources.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
People are thought to be most contagious when they have the most symptoms, such as cough. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms – there have been reports of this occurring, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads from adults. On the other hand, children may have no or mild symptoms and spread the virus within families, which may account of much of the “asymptomatic transmission” that has been observed. Adults may be contagious with only mild symptoms, which is why it is so important that we monitor ourselves closely.
Are some patients at more risk of getting sick from COVID-19?
Although most people who are infected by COVID-19 develop mild illness, some patients may be at increased risk for severe illness. Cancer patients who are under active cancer treatment are generally going to be at higher risk for complications of infection with COVID-19, especially patients who have had a recent bone marrow or stem cell transplant and have severely compromised immune systems. Also, older adults and those with medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic medical problems are at higher risk for complications.
What advice should be given to patients who are at increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19?
The best method of protection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Patients should stay out of public areas, avoid social gatherings, and avoid close contact with other people. The virus can travel up to 6 feet in respiratory droplets from another person’s sneeze or cough, so they should keep 6 six feet between themselves and others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends other everyday preventive measures such as vigorous hand-washing. We should counsel our patients to follow all of these recommended precautions. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offers more information specific to cancer patients and COVID-19.
What symptoms are associated with COVID-19?
We continue to get new information about symptoms and signs of COVID-19 infection. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, and congestion, but we are also seeing reports of diarrhea and loss of smell. Less than 10% of patients have more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, new confusion, or inability to arouse.
What do I do if I have symptoms or have been exposed?
If you think you have COVID-19, the best thing to do is stay home and isolate yourself. Always call your health care provider before going to the office. Avoid going to an emergency room unless you have any or all of these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent high fevers
- Worsening symptoms after you initially started to feel better
Your health care provider will determine if you need to be tested. Testing is most important if you have symptoms of a fever or respiratory infection and one of the following:
- Are sick enough to need to be in a hospital.
- Have risk factors for a more severe infection such as heart, lung, or kidney disease, diabetes or a compromised immune system.
- Work or live in a communal setting (e.g. a hospital, daycare, college dorm, or nursing home).
I have mild symptoms, what should I do?
Most people who have COVID-19 infection are mildly ill and improve with supportive care like resting and drinking plenty of fluids. Mild symptoms include low-grade fever, cough, and congestion similar to what you might have with the common cold.
We recommend that you continue to isolate yourself while you have symptoms. You should stay home and should not go to work, spend time in public areas, or take public transportation, use a ride-sharing service or take a taxi.
You should try to stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom from anyone else in your house if that is possible. Continue to wash your hands frequently, and cover your cough or sneeze.
We recommend people stay isolated for at least a week after the onset of their symptoms or for three days after their fever is gone and symptoms have significantly improved whichever one of those is longer.
What should I do if my symptoms are getting worse?
If you do develop worsening symptoms such as difficulty breathing, you should call ahead to your doctor’s office. They can help direct you to either their office or an emergency department for further evaluation. If you need to go to the doctor or ER, you should wear a mask. If you do not have a mask at home, please request one when you arrive.
If you are experiencing difficulty breathing, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. Be sure to let them know of your concern for COVID-19 (coronavirus).