What do you need to know about COVID-19?
#10. COVID-19 is the name of the disease the virus causes. The name of the virus is called SARS-CoV-2. I often hear these confused in the media coverage.
#9. Ingesting disinfectants WILL NOT cure COVID-19, or any viral disease, for that matter. If you drink or inject disinfectants, you either get very sick or die. Don’t do it. Also, internal lights will do nothing for you. Sunlight does have ultraviolet rays and UV can destroy viruses and bacteria; however, the sunlight is not at the same concentration as laboratory grade ultraviolet light so it’s less effective.
# 8. There are seven coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four cause the common cold. The other three can cause more severe disease. The first of these viruses caused the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s and had a mortality around 10%. The second caused another epidemic about a decade later called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. Mortality for MERS was much worse, around 30%. The seventh is our current outbreak, causing COVID-19. Currently mortality estimates are around 1-2% so luckily, much better than its predecessor viruses.
# 7. The case fatality rate is basically the number of deaths per people infected. This rate has likely been overestimated for COVID-19 because in many places around the world, there has not been enough test kits. In our hospital, we didn’t test a lot of patients at the beginning of the crisis, and still have some limit to who we can test because we need to preserve these tests for people who need it the most. For example, we only have so many rapid swabs we can do a day in our ER and there are very strict criteria of who gets those tests. Furthermore, the other reason why our true mortality rate is yet to be known is because the people who were probably infected initially but were well enough to go home were discharged from our ER and not tested and were just told to self isolate per CDC guidelines. The estimates of mortality are probably higher than they actually are. The only way to get a more accurate number is by doing more testing and improving our capability to test more people faster. We probably will get a better idea of this once the dust settles and all the data comes in at a later date.
# 6. There is some evidence that animals like cats and dogs can carry SARS-CoV-2; however, dogs, in general, haven't had symptomatic infections. Cats can have symptomatic infections. There are no reports of animals dying from the virus. There are also no reports of animals transmitting the virus to humans. That said, it may be possible if your dog/cat has the virus for the virus to be transmitted to you if your pet is licking your face. Consult your veterinarian with concerns.
# 5. The symptoms of COVID-19 are pretty wide ranging. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. However, you can also get gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. You can also experience body aches, abdominal pain, loss of smell/taste, and headache.
# 4. SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to bat coronaviruses which is why scientists think that this virus came from bats. Many new animals come from animal reservoirs, or animal hosts. Usually the viruses have relationships with their animal hosts so that they are not particularly deadly for the host but when they infect a new species, like humans, these viruses can be deadly because humans don’t have immune defenses against these viruses. For example, MERS was thought to also have been from a bat reservoir but then infected humans through an intermediate host, dromedary camels. In the case of COVID, we don’t know if there was an intermediate host. The market in Wuhan was a fish market so it is unclear if maybe there were cats or other animals in the market that served as an immediate host. Reports suggest that there were not bats in the market.
# 3. SARS-CoV-2 is spread mainly by respiratory droplets but has also been found in stool. Respiratory droplets are spread when they come out of your mouth when you cough, sneeze, talk, breathe, or blow your nose. Usually, they fall to the ground within about six feet which is why it is recommended you stay six feet away from other people. It is also helpful to wear a mask to prevent your respiratory droplets from coming out of your mouth and hitting other people in the face. The best things you can do are isolate, wear a mask, wash your hands often, and don’t touch your face. Did I mention wash your hands?
#2. Part of what makes this virus so easily transmitted is that many people are infected but don’t know they are because they don’t have symptoms at all or their symptoms are mild. You can still spread the virus if you don’t have symptoms so ALWAYS use good infection prevention measures. Scientists think viral shedding (or the amount of virus in your saliva that can be transmitted) starts to decrease about one week after the onset of symptoms BUT, this is highly variable and also seems to be related to the severity of the infection and time of your illness. For example, it seems like people have higher viral levels earlier in their illness. If you have ANY symptoms, stay home. If you don’t have symptoms, still be extra careful and follow all appropriate precautions.
# 1. This too shall pass. Hang in there. We all have to make sacrifices but we can make those sacrifices knowing that we are making a difference and helping our fellow humans. We, as ER docs, are so grateful to all the men, women, and children out there staying home to make our jobs a little easier and safer. We appreciate you. We’re all in this together.