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Your COVID-19 questions, answered

CoronavirusMar 28, 2020 02:15PM ET
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© Reuters. Outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the coronavirus, so we took to Instagram, Twitter and Reddit to see what questions have been bugging you, our readers.Below are answers from several healthcare experts who have been following the outbreak. Please note that there is much we still don’t know about the new virus, and you should reach out to your own healthcare provider with any personal health concerns.

 

LIVING UNDER LOCKDOWN

 

What are good ways to maintain your mental health?

I would recommend the following:

1. Maintain a normal schedule if possible

2. Exercise (go for walk or run, do an online video)

3. Maintain social connections via FaceTime, Skype or phone calls

4. Limit time spent on the Internet and connected to the news

5. Have "virtual" dates with family and friends.

 — Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

Here’s how it’s affecting young minds (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-children-anxiety/coronavirus-tag-how-the-pandemic-can-affect-young-minds-idUSKBN21E1ZW) and how millennials are adjusting to isolation (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-millennials/u-s-millennials-stuck-at-home-adjust-to-coronavirus-isolation-idUSKBN2190FO) .

                                                                                                                                        

How long will the U.S. really have to be on lockdown to successfully flatten the curve?

We’re still learning on a daily basis what the case count looks like in the U.S. We also need to consider that there could be a resurgence of cases once public health measures are loosened up. 

— Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

I defer to the epidemiologists here, but National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci recently said that he's confident in a range of four to six weeks to 3 months.  

— Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist at Columbia University 

 

Do I actually need to wear a mask?

The WHO advises that if you’re healthy, you need to wear a mask only when caring for an infected person or if you’re coughing, sneezing or showing symptoms. More (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-facemasks-explaine/explainer-who-should-wear-a-face-mask-and-do-they-stop-the-coronavirus-idUSKBN21C2PT)

 

TRANSMISSION

 

Is it fair to assume every American will be exposed to the coronavirus this year?

No, which is one of the reasons we have these current public health measures in place. We are trying to prevent further onward transmission of the disease.

 — Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

Almost 100,000 cases have been reported in the U.S. and its territories, according to a Reuters tally of state and local government sources, mapped (https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-USA/0100B5K8423/index.html).

 

Is the coronavirus airborne in normal settings and if so, for how long?

According to our knowledge, it does not stay in the air in normal settings. Most evidence directs us to droplet transmission. Airborne precautions are required only for healthcare workers when undertaking aerosol producing procedures such as bronchoscopy/intubation. 

— Dr. Muge Cevik, infectious diseases researcher at the University of St. Andrews

 

Is there potential exposure in elevators? 

Coronavirus guidelines by the CDC are based on the fact that the virus is transmitted primarily via respiratory droplets, like a cough or sneeze. In droplet form, it’s airborne for a few seconds, but is only able to travel a short distance. In elevators, social distancing measures should be implemented with a max number of people inside at a time. 

— Infectious Diseases Society of America

 

How worried should we be about fomite transmission?

We are still learning about fomite transmission. We know from an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that the virus is viable up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. 

— Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

Can you spread the virus if you’re asymptomatic?

Yes, but it isn’t the main driver of transmission. This is also why it is extremely important to ensure you have washed hands before touching your face.

— Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

What’s the typical timeline of symptoms? 

From the time of exposure to symptoms it may take on average three to six days, which may be longer/shorter in some patients. Typically it starts with fever, dry cough, myalgia and flu-like illness, then progresses to shortness of breath and pneumonia in some patients. 

— Dr. Muge Cevik, infectious diseases researcher at the University of St. Andrews

 

Is it possible that an infected person only has a mild cold before recovering?

Yes. The most common symptoms a person will have are fever, dry cough and muscle aches/fatigue.

— Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

Should people be more concerned about eye protection?

We certainly use face shields to protect our eyes when in contact with patients. 

— Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease researcher and scientist 

 

Does getting vaccines increase your risk?

Getting any vaccines would not increase your risk for COVID-19. We’re recommending getting needed vaccines. We want people to get their influenza vaccines so they don't end up with the flu and in the hospital.

— Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

Do people have a natural immunity to this virus?

I am not aware of "natural immunity" since it is a new virus. We might find as serology testing is rolled out that people have been exposed and developed antibodies without having symptoms.

— Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher 

 

Is it possible to get reinfected?

We're not sure how immunity works or how long it lasts. The best guess is that people who are infected are likely to be protected over the short-to-medium term. We don't know about longer yet.  

— Dr. Eric Rubin, editor-in-chief, New England Journal of Medicine 

 

There are a handful of cases of possible “reinfection” in recovered patients (http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/testfiles/knownunknown/index.html). But most scientists believe those are more likely to have been relapses.

 

TREATMENT

 

Is there a team working on an antibody test for the virus? If so, when might it be ready?

There are teams working on serological tests (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-immune-test-insigh/us-companies-labs-rush-to-produce-blood-test-for-coronavirus-immunity-idUSKBN21C1KK). Rolling out on a population scale will be an essential part of the long-term answer, but we need to get through the next month.

 — Bill Hanage, associate professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health

 

When will a vaccine be ready?

Vaccine trials may take as long as 12 months. There are multiple clinical trials looking at different treatment options, but we currently don't know whether this combination is effective and safe for patients.

— Dr. Muge Cevik, infectious diseases researcher at the University of St. Andrews

 

Scientists in Singapore are trying to fast-track the process. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-singapore-vaccine/singapore-scientists-study-genes-to-fast-track-coronavirus-vaccine-idUSKBN21B0P9)

 

What impact will warmer weather have on the spread?

I have yet to see convincing evidence on this, one way or the other. We are all hoping transmission will slow down with warmer weather in the northern hemisphere, and that warmer countries will be spared the worst. Not enough data yet to conclude.

— Dr. Suerie Moon, director of research at the Global Health Centre

 

(https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-explainer/could-warmer-weather-help-contain-the-coronavirus-idUSKBN20F1RG)'s what we know about seasonal features of disease outbreaks.

 

I’ve seen several news sources report that experts from Johns Hopkins and other medical colleges are saying the virus can become less deadly as it spreads. Can you explain this phenomenon? 

Yes, one theory for why many viruses become weaker over time is that viruses that kill their host don't get very far. This pattern of weakening is seen with flu viruses, and many others, but not all. We're not there yet with the current outbreak. Whether it's weaker three or 10 years from now doesn't change anything about today's situation.

-- Christine Soares, medical editor at Reuters

Your COVID-19 questions, answered
 

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Comments (1)
Shriram Shriram
Shriram Shriram Mar 28, 2020 3:29PM ET
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Is there any end for CORONAVIRUS
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Mar 28, 2020 3:29PM ET
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Yes, if all of us dont have it.
 
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