It feels strange blogging about an infection that still ravages our country. Despite over 140,000 dead, it looks like it’s just getting started with no end in sight. With so much disinformation out there, I felt duty-bound as a physician with more than 20 years of experience, a public health education at Harvard, and someone who saw this infection coming in late December to educate others and myself.
COVID-19 is a contagious multisystem illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, a member of the Coronavirus family. Coronaviruses cause the common cold as well as SARS and MERS. The incubation period is unknown. Patients have developed symptoms as early as two days after exposure and as late as 21 days. The average time from exposure to symptoms is about 7-14 days. Anyone can become infected with COVID and anyone can die from it. Certain pre-existing conditions such as obesity, diabetes or immunodeficiency put patients at higher risk.
How is Covid-19 transmitted?
According to experts, the primary mode of transmission is from human to human through contact with respiratory droplets or particles. Surface contamination does not play as important a role in transmission as previously thought.
The coronavirus is more easily transmitted indoors from person to person than outdoors. A COVID fertile environment is an indoor mass gathering with no social distancing or masks. That does not negate transmission from close outdoor contacts—a crucial reason to wear masks and maintain social distance in crowded outdoor spaces.
Recently, the World Health Organization revealed that viral transmission rarely occurs by small airborne particles that linger in the air. For many essential workers stuck in poorly ventilated workspaces or environments where the virus can become airborne, regular masks do not have sufficient protection. These essential workers require personal protective equipment (PPE), which include a face shield and an N95 mask that will filter smaller airborne viral particles.
There is no cure, so the best option is prevention, which dramatically reduces the chances of infection. Wear a mask, maintain social distance, and frequent hand washing. Avoid indoor spaces where you cannot social distance and wear a mask.
I repeat anyone can get COVID, and transmit it. The elderly and people with pre-existing conditions are more likely to develop severe complications.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Can I get COVID from kissing? Most definitely, since large amounts of virus reside in the upper respiratory tract and saliva.
- Can I spread COVID without symptoms? Most definitely! It’s believed people are most contagious 24 hours prior to the onset of symptoms.
- Can I get COVID from food? Unlikely, the intact virus does not survive well outside of respiratory droplets or particles, and heat inactivates the virus.
- Can I get COVID from sitting on a toilet seat? Unlikely, if you maintain sanitary precautions with proper handwashing and hygiene.
- Can I get COVID from a blood transfusion? There is no evidence that transmission can occur from a blood transfusion.
- Can I get COVID from sexual intercourse? Again, there is no evidence the infection is sexually transmitted.
- Can I get COVID from animals? Some scientists believe the infection jumped from bats to humans. There are reports that humans have spread the virus to pets such as cats and dogs.