COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect human lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus. This virus was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. It is extremely contagious. Common symptoms include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. The novel coronavirus is believed to spread just like the flu or a cold through the air by coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, or by touching an object or surface with the virus on it. There might be other routes of spreading. Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.
From the available information, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80% do not exhibit severe symptoms that would require hospitalization. For patients who are more severely ill, hospitals can provide supportive care. There is no definite cure for the illness.
We are continuing to learn more about this novel coronavirus and treatment may change over time.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Some ways you can protect yourself are:
- Washing hands with soap and water.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Practice social distancing.
- Following guidance from public health officials.
Available tests for Novel Coronavirus
There are laboratory tests that can identify the virus that causes COVID-19 in respiratory specimens. There are several ways to test for the new strain of coronavirus. Most are either molecular or serological tests.
Molecular tests look for signs of an active infection. This type of test detects signs of the virus’s genetic material. Sample is taken from the back of the throat or in nostrils with a cotton swab. The sample is then sent to laboratory for testing. The sample will undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. A PCR test can confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19 if it identifies two specific SARS-CoV-2 genes. If it identifies only one of these genes, it will produce an inconclusive result.
Molecular tests can only help diagnose current cases of COVID-19. They cannot tell whether someone has had the infection and since recovered.
The serological tests detect antibodies that the body produces to fight the virus. The antibodies exist in blood and tissues throughout the body. These antibodies are present in anyone who has infected or recovered from COVID-19. The serological test usually performs with a blood sample.