Understanding COVID-19: Answers to 5 Common Questions

As concerns regarding the spread of Coronavirus 2019, also known as COVID-19, increase within our communities, it’s critical that people are armed with facts and helpful information to not only help protect themselves and loved ones from exposure, but also to dispel myths and misperceptions about the novel virus. While there is much that the healthcare community is still learning about COVID-19, we can take meaningful steps to minimize its impact by better understanding how it spreads, misperceptions, symptoms and warning signs, as well as action steps that people can take if they suspect exposure.   

Following are some commonly asked questions among our patients with responses to help inform and empower the San Fernando community and beyond during these uncertain times. 

How does COVID-19 spread?

The medical and scientific communities have identified several ways that COVID-19 can spread.  In the past six weeks or so, it has been documented that the virus can be spread from person to person. The most common occurrences in known cases have been through respiratory secretions when a person comes into contact with them from an infected individual who sneezes or coughs, or direct contact through a shared surface or object. The virus can stay on inanimate objects for several hours after someone has sneezed or coughed on it. People who are infected but do not show symptoms can still aerosolize the organism, which is how the virus has spread to various parts of the world. Proper handwashing is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19 or other diseases. For information on proper handwashing technique, visit https://www.hollywoodpresbyterian.com/blog-practice-good-hand-hygiene-to-avoid-diseases/.

What are the myths/misperceptions about COVID-19?

It is a myth that healthy people wearing a regular mask are protected. In fact, people tend to touch their faces even more than usual to either adjust the mask to a different area of the face, which can increase the risk of infection if their hands have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus or other diseases.  

While people should be mindful of COVID-19 exposure, flu prevention is just as, if not more, important.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans are more likely to contract influenza respiratory syncytial virus than COVID-19.

There has been much attention given to “stocking-up” for a potential COVID-19 outbreak.  However, people do not need to panic and should keep in mind that it’s always a great idea to stock up and prepare for emergencies, especially as we live in California where we may have natural disasters such as earthquakes. For more information on how to prepare first aid kits and other supplies, please visit: https://www.hollywoodpresbyterian.com/being-prepared-can-help-you-and-your-family-survive-a-disaster/.

What are symptoms or warning signs people should look for if they become ill?

Most people infected with COVID-19 show only mild symptoms. They may have a fever, sore throat, nasal congestion, chest tightness and shortness of breath. However, for elderly or people with advanced chronic symptoms associated with diseases such as asthma and diabetes, or with other medical illnesses, COVID-19 can be life-threatening and even mild symptoms can become a major concern. Some people who are exposed to COVID-19 will show no symptoms and may not even know exposure has occurred. 

What should people do if they or a loved one suspect they have COVID-19?

If symptoms are mild, it’s likely to be a common cold or flu. However, if you suspect your or your loved one has COVID-19, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately to discuss your symptoms prior to a physical visitation. They will ask you questions based on CDC criteria/guidelines. Be sure to quarantine yourself until symptoms are resolved or your healthcare provider can assess whether you have the virus. During this time, you should remember to care for yourself by drinking enough fluids, having soup, or other comfort foods already in the house.   

Where can people get more information about COVID-19?

The CDC is a reliable source of information about COVID-19. The CDC website has numerous resources, including the latest news about COVID-19 cases and traveler information, and you can sign up to receive weekly email updates. For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.