What is COVID-19 and how to reduce risk

Sep 1, 2020

What are Coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses. Scientists have discovered and categorized hundreds of different coronaviruses. The “corona” (like a crown) name comes from their studded like appearance. We have known about coronaviruses for a long time but have only ever considered them as a mild sickness such as the common cold.
One of the concerns surrounding coronaviruses is their ability to jump from animals to humans, or zoonotic. In 2002 SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, emerged and MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome, in 2012 as coronaviruses. Both SARS and MERS are more dangerous than COVID-19 but spread slower.

This one specifically

This specific disease, COVID-19, is caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. It was found in China by animal to human contact, and since has been found all over the world, even finding its way here to Nebraska.

In Nebraska

Here in Nebraska we have tested a total of over 330,000 people. That’s Memorial Stadium filled over three and a half times. In total, just over 30,000 people have tested positive, or about one third of Memorial Stadium. Of those 30,000 cases, 371 have succumbed to the disease. We mourn for their loss and with their families. In chance of COVID-19 causing death in Nebraska is 1%. Despite the risk of death being low it is important to care for ourselves, our families, and our communities so that we can all continue to live “The Good Life.”

Symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to most other illnesses including:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Tiredness

More unique identifiers are the loss of taste or smell.
It is important to note that these symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear. The list of symptoms is not all inclusive but gives a good idea of what symptoms accompany COVID-19. The intensity and severity of each symptoms can range based on each individual. Some may have no symptoms at all and other experience the symptoms in the extreme.

Who is as risk?

The elderly and those who have existing chronic medical conditions are at higher risk of a severe illness from COVID-19. That risk only increases with age. People which serious medical conditions such the following are at increased risk. This list is not all inclusive.

  • Serious heart diseases
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Severe obesity

Other illnesses that can increase risk of a serious response to COVID-19 are:

  • Asthma
  • Liver or lung diseases
  • Brain or nervous system conditions
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • High blood pressure

When to get help

If you are showing symptoms or have been in recent contact with someone that has been diagnosed with COVID-19 contact your doctor or medical professional for guidance on how to handle your diagnosis.
If you are experiencing more sever symptoms seek care immediately. Emergency symptoms can include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure
  • Inability to stay awake
  • New confusion
  • Blue lips or face

Causes & risk

From the information gathered about the new COVID-19 we have learned how it spreads. The data shows that the virus spreads easily among people, most easily from people withing a six-foot radius. The virus spreads when droplets are release when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Those respiratory droplets are inhaled by another person spreading the virus.
The virus can also survive on surfaces. If a person were to touch a surface with the virus on it and touch their nose, mouth, or eyes it is possible for the virus to spread. This is, however, not the primary way the virus spreads.
These two primary causes of spreading cause us to say the following risk factors:

  • Close contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • An infected person coughing or sneezing on you

Prevention

There is not currently a vaccine for COVID-19. In preparing yourself, family, and community in reducing the impact of COVID-19 here are some practical steps you can take to avoid the virus:

  • Avoid large events and mass gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact, six feet, with anyone who shows symptoms.
  • Stay home as much as possible. Keep in mind not everyone with COVID-19 shows signs. Even without signs they can spread the virus.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water with proper technique.
  • Use a mask in public places to cover your nose and mouth.
  • Cover your sneezes appropriately.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid sharing household items.
  • Keeping the surfaces clean of areas that are touch frequently.
  • Stay home from work and school if possible.

For more information about COVID-19 or step you can take to keep safe visit the Center for Disease Control website or Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services.

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