Q: What is so risky about Coronavirus?
A: The virus that causes COVID-19 infection is very contagious. That means it is passed easily from one person to another person. This virus grows fast to high levels in the body. The droplets of moisture that come from our mouths and noses when we talk and sneeze and cough land on surfaces that other people touch. Then those other people touch their face with droplets on their hands and can get infected. About two days before a person knows they are sick, they can already pass the virus to other people and they can infect people while they are still sick.
Q: How does social distancing work?
A: If we stay 6 feet away from other people then it is less likely that their droplets will land on us. If we don’t touch surfaces that other people have touched, we won’t pick up droplets from those surfaces. High touch surfaces are door handles, light switches and counter tops, and also tables, backs of chairs, toilets, and sinks.
If we really stay home, and everyone else in the house also stays home, then we will stop the spread of the virus much quicker. If one person in the group still goes out and is around other people without keeping safe distances, then they can bring the virus home to the family.
Q: What are the risks of getting very ill from Coronavirus?
A: This virus seems to be stronger than the winter flu. It doesn’t make everyone very sick. Some people don’t have a lot of symptoms when they are infected. But some people have gotten very sick and even died. Young children can get the virus but most of them don’t get very sick. Some younger adults have gotten very sick, but not as many as the older people who get sick. Older people, like those over age 60, and even more of those over age 70, seem to have a higher risk to get sicker. People who have trouble fighting infections because they have other serious illnesses like heart, kidney or lung disease, cancer or diabetes also seem to be at higher risk.
People who have trouble following the rules of handwashing or keeping their hand from touching their face may need more help during this time so they don’t contact the virus. We all have to be careful so we don’t spread the virus to each other, especially to people who are older or have serious illnesses.
Q: What should I do to prevent getting the virus?
A: We all need to practice social distancing by staying at home. You can go for a walk or a bike ride as long as you stay 6 feet away from other people and don’t touch surfaces with your hands. You can go to necessary places, if you are careful. If you go out, wash your hands as soon as you get home. If you go to the grocery store, try to avoid touching any surfaces you don’t need to touch, don’t touch your face while you are out, and wash your hands at home.
When you wash your hands, make sure you use soap and water for 20 seconds (the length of the Happy Birthday song). Wash all parts of your hands, that means the fronts, backs, fingertips, between the fingers, the thumbs and the wrists. You may also want to change from your outdoors clothes to new clean clothes you wear just at home. Washing and fully drying outdoor clothes will make them clean again.
If you use personal items like your phone when you are out, they can pick up droplets too. Using earphones can be a way to keep your phone away from your face. Don‘t hand your phone to others. Think about cleaning your phone when you get home. Take the case off. Wipe the phone and case with a disinfectant towel. Don’t spray it or get it too wet. Let it dry well before you put it back together and also wash your hands again.
Q: What should I do if I was in contact with someone who has the virus?
A: If you had close contact to someone who likely had the virus when you were with them, you should quarantine. That means stay home, really stay home, for 2 weeks. You don’t want to spread it to anyone else.
If you can use a different room and bathroom than others in your house, that’s another way to keep them from getting the virus from you. If you can’t use different rooms, then do your best to stay 6 feet apart, and have someone clean high touch surfaces often during each day. Wear a mask or bandana over your mouth and nose if you have to be around others. Wash your hands often. You shouldn’t make food for others in the house or touch their personal items if you are in quarantine. Don’t share cups, towels or other personal items. The heat of a hot clothes dryer, dishwasher dryer cycle, and clothes iron are likely hot enough to kill the virus.
Q: What should I do if I get sick and think I have the virus?
A: If you’ve think you have the virus, and have a fever with a cough or trouble breathing, call your doctor’s office. They should give you advice on what to do and where to go. Right now, the plans for where you can get checked are changing every day, so call before you go to a hospital or doctor’s office. If you are sick, quarantine yourself at home, unless your doctor says to go for testing or an exam.
Q: How do I know if I have gotten better from the virus?
A: If you have had an illness that you think was COVID-19 and don’t need to be in the hospital, then you should stay home and away from others until you don’t have the virus any more. Stay home until at least 7 days have passed from when you first got sick, and you have had no fever for 3 full days, and you are feeling better.
Dr. Mary Ciccarelli
Center for Youth and Adults with Conditions of Childhood
Indiana University School of Medicine