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What is COVID-19?

  • 3 min read

What is COVID-19?


The world has changed significantly over a course of a couple weeks. It only seemed like yesterday that I was chatting with a fellow entrepreneur friend over coffee at a cafe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a series of recommendations for social distancing, the primary tactic for slowing the spread of COVID-19 currently threatening to overwhelm the healthcare system at home and abroad. While staying indoors during this turbulent time, one of the key things we can do is to stay educated and informed. Here is the DL on what we know about the coronavirus, AKA COVID-19.

What is COVID-19? Is it the same as the flu?

COVID-19 a virus strain caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus. The outbreak first occurred in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, in China.

Little is known about COVID-19. While some of the symptoms between the two overlap (fever, coughing, shortness of breath), the major difference between COVID-19 and the flu is that this particular strain has the potential to cause severe respiratory illness and pneumonia in some people. Because of the lack of vaccine and medication, COVID-19 has a much higher mortality rate.

How can it spread? What are its symptoms?

COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets. This means that in order to become infected, people generally are within six feet of someone who is contagious and come into contact with these droplets. 

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it (and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. The virus can survive in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours [1]. The CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days, or as long as 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

How can we treat COVID-19? Is there a cure?

People who are infected with this virus should receive supportive care such as rest, fluids and fever control, to help relieve symptoms. 

While there is currently no FDA approved medication for COVID-19, you can help stop the spread of COVID-19. If you have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, have lived/recently travelled in an area with an ongoing spread of COVID-19, or experience any of these symptoms: fever, cough and shortness of breath, please stay home to limit the spread of the virus to others and seek medical advice.

Precautionary measures for COVID-19

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Carry around and use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol
  • Stay home when you are sick or have been near someone or somewhere with COVID-19.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Standard household cleansers and wipes are effective in cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. 
  • Make sure your flu shots are up-to-date

Do masks work? Should I be wearing a mask?

If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people. If you are not able to wear a facemask then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room.

On the other hand, if you are not sick, you do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

Who is most at risk for COVID-19? Can young people get infected?

For most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. Older adults and people of any age with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease, are at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

On the other hand, millennials are not invincible. The new data show that up to one-fifth of infected people ages 20-44 have been hospitalized, including 2%-4% who required treatment in an intensive care unit.


Photo credit: Max Siedentopf