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COVID-19 General FAQs

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEASONAL AND NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses and there are different types of coronavirus within that family, much like there are different types of influenza viruses. Coronaviruses in general are not new, they are quite common and are a frequent cause of respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. Coronaviruses tend to circulate in the fall and winter months, similar to influenza. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives.

The type of coronavirus that has recently emerged in Wuhan, China is a new type of coronavirus and is infecting people for the first time (which means that people do not have any immunity to it).

WHAT ARE COMMON SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?

Information to date suggests this virus is causing symptoms consistent with a respiratory illness such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

HOW IS 2019-NCOV SPREAD?

At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. Typically, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Chinese officials report that sustained person-to-person spread in the community is occurring in China.

Similar spread has been reported in other countries. Person-to-person spread in the United States has been detected but the risk to the general public remains low. Cases in healthcare settings, like hospitals, may also occur.

WHAT MEASURES CAN BE TAKEN TO PREVENT COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

HOW IS COVID-19 TREATED?

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for the coronavirus. There is no vaccine to prevent this virus, and the CDC advises that the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. These include washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol- based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available and avoiding others who are sick.

SHOULD I WEAR A MASK?

No.

The guidance from the Surgeon General is clear: There is no need for the general public to wear a mask if asymptomatic. You should only wear a mask if you show symptoms and your healthcare provider recommends it. If you purchase and use a mask while asymptomatic, you impact the ability of those in legitimate need to obtain masks.

As is normal practice during flu season, community members presenting with respiratory symptoms may be asked to use a mask in the waiting room of Health Services or a doctor’s office.

WHAT PREVENTIVE MEASURES SHOULD BE TAKEN TO HELP REDUCE THE SPREAD OF RESPIRATORY VIRUSES INCLUDING COVID-19 AND THE FLU?

Students, faculty and staff should all be asked to follow these steps that prevent the transmission of respiratory infections:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or into your sleeve, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home from class and work if you’re sick.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.
  • Adhere to exclusion recommendations from public health. For acute respiratory illness; fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication.
  • Separate sick students and staff from others until they can go home.
  • Provide adequate supplies, including clean and functional handwashing stations, soap, paper towels, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Encourage routine surface cleaning through education, policy, and the provision of supplies.
  • Get a flu shot – it’s not too late to be protected!