On December 31, 2019, Chinese health authorities identified a new (or novel) coronavirus (referred to as COVID-19) through a series of reported cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. It is thought that this new coronavirus originated in animals.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that circulate both in humans and animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illness, similar to the common cold and spread easily between people. There are however, strains of coronaviruses that have spread from animals to humans which have caused more severe illness in humans in the past, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). These tend to have more difficulty spreading from person to person.
How to Protect Yourself
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. Prevention measures include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill
- Stay home when you are ill
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands
- If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
For general, day-to-day activities, there is no need to wear a surgical or N95 mask.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health is recommending social distancing as a way to minimize COVID-19 transmission in the community. Social distancing measures include:
- keeping 2 metres (6 feet) apart from others
- avoiding mass gatherings
- avoiding crowds
COVID-19 symptoms range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include:
- Muscle aches and tiredness
- Difficulty breathing
Less commonly: sore throat, headache and diarrhea have been reported.
Your risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:
- Older people
- People with chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease
The World Health Organization advises that symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 10 to 14 days after contracting COVID-19. This time period may be refined as new information becomes available.
Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19 as there are no specific treatment for coronaviruses, and there is no vaccine that protects against coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own.
If symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, see your health care practitioner. They can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication.
You should also:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get rest and sleep as much as possible
- Try a humidifier or a hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough
Self – Isolation
You will need to stay home and self-isolate if you have:
- A lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection, do not require hospitalization, and a medical practitioner has indicated that you can recover at home
- Are being assessed for COVID-19 infection by a healthcare provider
- Have travelled from anywhere outside of Canada, including the United States, within the past 14 day
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