What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What is a novel coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified.

What is the virus causing COVID-19?

A new virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes the disease coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

What is the disease called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease.

Why do the virus and the disease have different names?

  • Virus name: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • Disease name: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Viruses, and the diseases they cause, often have different names. For example, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.  People often know the name of a disease, such as measles, but not the name of the virus that causes it (rubeola).

There are different processes, and purposes, for naming viruses and diseases.

Viruses are named based on their genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines. Virologists and the wider scientific community do this work, so viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).

Diseases are named to enable discussion on disease prevention, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment. Human disease preparedness and response is WHO’s role, so diseases are officially named by WHO in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

What are the risks with COVID-19 and why should I be worried?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states the COVID-19 as causing mild to moderate illness in people. Four coronaviruses are found globally and are believed to cause 10 – 30% of upper respiratory infections (URIs) in adults.

COVID-19 virus has been causing new outbreaks throughout the world and effective March 11, 2020, was classified as a global pandemic. This is the first time a coronavirus has caused a pandemic. This is the first pandemic since the H1N1 “swine flu” in 2009. More than 210 countries are affected (as of 4/23/20). The first death due to COVID-19 in the US occurred in Santa Clara County, California on February 6, 2020.

How contagious is COVID-19?

The virus is likely transmitted through respiratory droplets such as those from coughs or sneezes. An infected person is believed to be able to spread the infection to 1.5 to 3.5 people.

What precautions should I and others be taking?

Get an influenza (“flu”) vaccine as soon as possible – it is not too late. Although caused by another virus, influenza can cause a serious infection including pneumonia.

Hand washing remains one of the most important precautions in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other infections. Proper handwashing requires 5 steps: wet hands with running water & apply soap, lather hand/fingers/under nails, scrub for at least 20 seconds, rinse hands under running water and dry your hands with a clean towel or air drying. If using hand sanitizer, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The hand sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol. Proper use of hand sanitizers includes rubbing hands and fingers thoroughly together for 20 seconds.

If you are sick stay home. Disinfect and clean areas with frequent traffic or likely to be touched (door handles, stair rails, TV remote controls, cellular phones, water bottles, tabletops, etc.). If you are coughing or sneezing, use a handkerchief, tissue, sleeve or elbow to cough or sneeze.

The CDC is warning that at-risk or older individuals avoid certain countries that are harder hit such as South Korea, China, Japan, Italy or Iran. Keep a 30-day supply of medications including a thermometer. If you travel to areas with travel advisories follow guidelines for preventing infections (e.g. URI prevention as listed above), avoid uncooked meat, avoid live or dead animals, and avoid close contact with sick individuals.

Unlike influenza, there is no vaccine currently and Tamiflu® (oseltamivir phosphate) is not part of the therapy for COVID-19. Tamiflu is for influenza infections. Treatment for COVID-19 is symptomatic care. The CDC does not recommend that people wear facemasks. Facemasks are recommended who are sick or believed to be infected with COVID-19. Facemasks are also recommended for healthcare workers.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection?

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) demonstrate that the infection from COVID-19 causes a respiratory illness. For most individuals, the COVID-19 infection will cause a mild illness. Individuals older than 60 years of age and those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer or cardiovascular (heart) disease, are at increased risk of severe disease (morbidity) or mortality from COVID-19. The most common symptoms include fevers (88% of cases), cough (68%), fatigue (38%), a productive cough (33%) or shortness of breath. The incubation period ranges from 1-14 days, but on average is 5-6 days. Asymptomatic cases have been reported but are rare. To read the Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), click here.

Can I or a family member be tested for COVID-19?

If you think you or a family member may have COVID-19, call your primary care doctor regarding further questions or recommendations. Currently testing for COVID-19 is being offered through local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Individuals who have respiratory symptoms will likely be tested initially for influenza (“flu”), other viral illnesses and/or infections. Testing is done with swabs of the nose and throat.

To see a directory of local health departments, click here.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Treatment is symptomatic care.

 What is AFM doing to protect patients and families?

AFM is following the highest standards for infection control. We are regularly cleaning our practice facilities and high contact areas.

What is the role of my doctor or other healthcare workers?

The CDC has recommendations for precautions for healthcare workers. To see the guidelines about criteria for COVID-19 person under investigation (PUI), click here:

What are the recommendations for higher-risk populations?

Based on current information, the CDC includes individuals with higher-risk for more serious illness from COVID-19 as the following:

  1. Individuals with chronic medication conditions
    1. Diabetes
    2. Lung disease
    3. Heart disease
  2. Older individuals

The following websites from the CDC list further recommendations for higher-risk populations. The information from these websites should be reviewed by those in the care of or in contact with higher-risk populations: