The coronavirus disease (also abbreviated as COVID-19) is a new respiratory disease that is spreading from person-to-person across the globe. In this article, we’ll detail:
- What the coronavirus disease is
- Symptoms of the coronavirus
- Difference between COVID-19 and Influenza
- How to minimize your risk of exposure
- What to do if you think you have symptoms
- Why telemedicine is important during this outbreak
What Is The Coronavirus Disease?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
This spreading can happen through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this way is not considered the main way to spread the virus.
How severe is COVID-19?
Currently, the complete clinical picture in regards to the coronavirus disease is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from no reported symptoms to severe, including resulting in death.
A CDC Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report that looked at severity of disease among COVID-19 cases in the United States by age group found that 80% of deaths were among adults 65 years and older with the highest percentage of severe outcomes occurring in people 85 years and older.
However, this does NOT mean that only the elderly are at risk. People of all ages with severe chronic medical conditions (heart disease, lung disease, & diabetes, for example) seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.
According to the CDC, the risk from COVID-19 to Americans can be broken down into the risk of exposure versus the risk of serious illness and death.
Risk of exposure:
- The immediate risk of being exposed to this virus is still low for most Americans, but as the outbreak expands, that risk will increase. Cases of COVID-19 and instances of community spread are being reported in a growing number of states.
- People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with the level of risk dependent on the location.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.
Risk of Severe Illness:
Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
- Older adults, with risk increasing by age.
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
What Are Symptoms Of The Coronavirus Disease?
Symptoms associated with the virus include:
- mild to severe fever
- shortness of breath
About 80% of coronavirus patients eventually develop a fever (Sacramento Bee). When your temperature rises to 100.4 degrees or higher, you have a fever, Harvard Medical School reports. When it reaches 103 degrees or higher, you have a severe fever.
There are 2 types of coughs: dry cough and productive coughs. Dry coughs don’t produce phlegm while productive coughs will produce mucus. Both types of coughs present themselves with coronavirus patients. However, it appears that about two-thirds of patients have a dry cough versus a wet cough.
Shortness of breath, known medically as dyspnea, is often described as a tightening in the chest, or breathlessness. Normally, shortness of breath accompanies a tough workout or a stressful day, but if you have shortness of breath while resting or lying down, it can be a sign that medical help is needed.
What Is The Difference Between COVID-19 and Influenza?
The symptoms related to influenza (The Flu) and COVID-19 (Coronavirus) are very similar and can be indistinguishable. Symptoms of both include fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue.
At this time, the 2 biggest differences appear to be mortality rate and treatments.
- Mortality rate: Influenza typically has a mortality rate of 0.1 percent in the U.S. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is significantly higher, especially in older patients and those with preexisting underlying conditions.
- Treatments: Vaccines and antiviral treatments exist for influenza, but no vaccines or anti-viral treatments currently exist for coronavirus.
With influenza, you are most contagious when you are presenting symptoms. With COVID-19, that may not be the case. You may be non-symptomatic and contagious, which makes transmission of this disease much easier.
How To Minimize Your Risk Of Exposure To The Coronavirus Disease
The best way to prevent this illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
What are some steps you can take to protect yourself?
- Wash your hands
- Stay home when you are sick
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Cover coughs & sneezes with the inside of your elbow or tissues
What To Do If You Think You Have Symptoms Of COVID-19
If you are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus disease, stay home. Most people who are mildly ill with this virus are able to recover at home. Do NOT leave or visit public areas. Avoid public transportation. Stay away from others and limit contact with your pets.
Seek the advice of a healthcare professional if you:
- develop symptoms
- have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19
- if you live in or have recently been in an area with an ongoing spread of COVID-19
Before seeking in-person care for COVID-19 symptoms, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19.
Telemedicine for virtual visits are a great option for talking to a medical professional from the comfort of your own home 24/7/365.
Why Telemedicine Is Important During The Coronavirus Outbreak
Telemedicine gives patients the ability to talk to a doctor online using their smartphone, tablet, or computer. Online doctors are available 24/7/365. Plus, you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home while you are sick. This technology can help you speak to a healthcare professional without possibly infecting others (or picking up an illness yourself).
The TelMed Network, powered by MDLIVE, is able to help. If you have symptoms of the virus, our doctors can assess your condition and help determine the necessary next steps, all from the comfort of your home.
Due to current limitations in specimen collection, MDLIVE doctors cannot currently order tests for COVID-19.
In-person care from a health care provider is currently required to collect a specimen (nose or throat swab) which is then submitted to a lab for COVID-19 testing. However, we can help evaluate your symptoms and provide the necessary next steps.
If you are suffering from other common medical conditions, MDLIVE doctors provide reliable care while minimizing the exposure to contagious viruses like COVID-19.