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Covid-19 FAQ

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Q: What is COVID -19?
A: COVID belongs to a completely different family of viruses than the flu. This family, the coronaviruses, includes just six other members that infect humans. Four of them, cause a third of common colds. The other two—MERS and SARS both cause far more severe disease.

Q: How does coronavirus spread?
A: Human coronaviruses spread from an infected person through:
• respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
• close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
• touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
• touching infected surfaces, then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

Q. How can someone pass along coronavirus when asymptomatic? If not sneezing or coughing, how can they infect others?
A: It’s easy for asymptomatic people with coronavirus to spread the illness. You rub your nose, touch your mouth or rub your eyes. Then you’ll touch other surfaces and then you will be spreading the virus if you are infected and shedding asymptomatically. People should wash their hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds and stop touching their faces.

Q: Will transmission of the virus slow in the summer?
A: This is unlikely. In cold and dry air, the thin layers of liquid that coat our lungs and airways become even thinner, and the beating hairs that rest in those layers struggle to get rid of viruses. Dry air also seems to dampen some aspects of the immune response to those trapped viruses. In the heat and humidity of summer, both trends reverse, and respiratory viruses have trouble getting into the lungs. The virus is currently circulating in parts of the world that are warm.

Q: Is coronavirus especially harmful for pregnant women?
A: There’s not enough data yet so the risk is unknown. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses and take the appropriate steps to avoid and prevent infection

Q: Are kids more at risk?
A: Children might have mild to no symptoms with coronavirus, they can still get others sick. Like everyone else, children should wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, stay at least 6 feet away from anyone coughing or sneezing, and stop touching their faces


Q: What are the symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19?
A: The most common symptoms of a COVID-19 infection are a fever and a cough. Less common symptoms include a runny nose, shortness of breath, or chest pain. There is also the possibility that you can have the virus without having any symptoms.

Q: How can I tell the difference between COVID-19 and another viral illness such as a cold?
A: The symptoms of most viral infections are extremely similar to that of COVID-19. Only through swab testing can the two be distinguished.

Q: If people can spread the virus without showing any symptoms, how can I tell who’s infected and who’s not?
A: You can’t tell who is infected as it is difficult to get tested. We need to treat every person as though they have the virus. That’s why it’s so critical to avoid crowds, stay at least 6 feet away from others, wash or disinfect your hands, and stop touching your face.

Q: What is the treatment for COVID-19?
A: Similar to most viruses, there is no clinically proven treatment for COVID-19. If you feel unwell, treat the symptoms with acetaminophen (Tylenol) NOT IBUPROFEN (Advil), plenty of fluids, and rest. No other medication has been shown to be effective for preventing or treating COVID-19. This includes antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs. Fortunately, the vast majority of patients who contract COVID-19 will recover within 1-2 weeks.

Q: If the majority of COVID-19 cases are mild and recover why is everyone concerned about it?
A: While the majority of people will recover, some, including young healthy individuals, can have severe complications requiring ICU admission. The virus is also very contagious and can spread easily to those disproportionally effected by the virus, which includes the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.


Q: Should I go to an assessment centre to get tested for COVID-19 if I feel mildly unwell?
A: NO. At this time, due to shortage of testing kits, public health is recommending that those who feel mildly unwell (fever, runny nose, muscle aches, cough) do not go in for testing. If you have these mild symptoms, please SELF-ISOLATE at home for 7 days. If you still feel unwell after 7 days, continue to self-isolate until you have no symptoms for 48 hours. If you are unsure how to proceed please visit the following website:

Q: What if I am pregnant or work in a high risk setting and feel mildly unwell?
A: At this time, the only people who are being tested for COVID-19 who feel mildly unwell are the following:
• Those who work in health care
• Those who work in retirement homes or nursing homes
• Homeless
• 36 or more weeks pregnant

Q: When should I go to the emergency department?
A: If your symptoms are mild (fever, cough), please do not go to the emergency department.
Please go to your nearest emergency department if you have any of the following symptoms of COVID-19 in addition to the mild symptoms:
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Lethargy or drowsiness
In addition to the above, please go to your nearest emergency department if you are feeling severely unwell for any other reason.


Q: What if someone gets sick in my house? If a member of your household is sick or in quarantine, they should be staying indoors and isolating themselves from the rest of the family.
A: How do I safely take care of someone who’s sick?
With the shortage of coronavirus testing, it may be difficult to know whether one has coronavirus or another illness. So, it’s important to play it safe and not infect yourself and, in turn, others. The CDC suggests:
• Giving the sick person their own room to stay in, if possible. Keep the door closed.
• Having only one person serve as the caretaker.
• Asking the sick person to wear a face mask, if they are able to. If the mask causes breathing difficulties, then the caretaker should wear a mask instead.


Q: What can I be doing to help contain the spread of COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 spreads from person to person through droplets. It can be spread in the absence of symptoms. Therefore, the best way to avoid transmission is limiting close contact with other people. This is called social distancing. Throughout the pandemic you should attempt to do the following:
• Avoid non-essential in-person interactions as much as possible especially with those over the age of 60 or with chronic health conditions.
• If you must interact face-to-face, then stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart.
• Do not congregate in public places.

Additionally, regular hand washing is essential. Soap and cool water for 20 seconds is preferable to hand sanitizer but both are acceptable means of good hand hygiene. Avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Q: Should I be wearing a mask?
A: NO. If you are sick and wearing the mask to protect others, then the best way to protect them is to self-isolate. If you are trying to avoid getting sick, then there is little evidence that wearing masks prevents transmission of COVID-19 for the general public. The best way to avoid getting sick is to practice social distancing. If you have any unused masks, please call Toronto Public Health, as healthcare workers on the front lines are running desperately short.

Q: How long does coronavirus stay “alive” on surfaces?
A: According to a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health:
• The new coronavirus is viable up to 72 hours after being placed on stainless steel and plastic.
• It was viable up to four hours after being placed on copper, and up to 24 hours after being put on cardboard.
• In aerosols, it remained viable for three hours.

Q: Why does soap work to kill the virus?
A: Each virus particle consists of a small set of genes, enclosed by a sphere of fatty lipid molecules, and because lipid shells are easily torn apart by soap, 20 seconds of thorough hand-washing can destroy the virus.

Q: What is the correct way to wash your hands?
A: How do I properly wash my hands

Running water
When running water is available, wash your hands with plain soap and water and dry thoroughly. Follow these steps for perfectly clean hands:
• Remove jewellery such as rings
• Wet hands up to the wrists
• Apply enough soap to cover hands
• Work soap under fingernails and around and between joints and fingers for a minimum of 20 seconds
• Rinse off all lather with water
• Dry hands with a clean cloth or paper towel - take special care to dry thoroughly between fingers
• Turn off the tap with a paper towel or cloth

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
If you do not have access to water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Place enough alcohol-based hand rub into the cupped palm of one hand sufficient to wet both hands completely
• Rub the liquid into the palms, backs of hands, between fingers and under nails

Q: How do I clean surfaces?
For high-touch surfaces such as door handles, toys and phones, Health Canada recommends cleaning these often with either:
• regular household cleaners or
• diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water)

Q: Can I still walk and exercise?
A: As long as you are not in close contact with other people, walking is great. If you exercise, you’re going to feel better. While you should take advantage of the benefits of being outdoors, practicing social distancing requires you to keep your distance from other, if they aren’t members of your household.

Q: Can I walk or see someone I don’t live with?
A: Even if you and a friend are both feeling fine, people can share the virus without developing symptoms. In Canada, some of the virus contracted it through community transmission. This means they did not travel abroad, and still got sick through being around others. Since you don’t know where everyone has been, even if close friends, they may not realize they have picked up something. Walking with anyone you live with is fine as you are in the same household.

Q: What about my pet?
There is currently no evidence to suggest that this virus is circulating in animals in Canada.
It is possible that some types of animals can be infected with COVID-19 but there is no evidence that pets or other animals can spread the virus. There are still many unknowns about COVID-19 and this is an area that remains to be studied and understood. Until we know more, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have a pet or other animal:
• avoid close contact with them, do not snuggle or kiss them, or let them lick you, sit on your lap, or sleep in your bed
• practice good cough etiquette - avoid coughing and sneezing on your animals
• have another member of your household care for your animals - if this is not possible, always wash your hands before touching or feeding them
• limit your animal's contact with other people and animals - this may mean keeping them indoors

Q: What about going to a supermarket?
A: Crowds of people can cough or sneeze or spread germs on grocery carts and checkout lines. For those worried, bring gloves, wipes or hand sanitizers. The government has made it clear that those most at risk, including seniors, should stay at home and encourage others to help support them.

Q: Should I disinfect my groceries? If so, how?
A: Wipe down external surfaces of canned and wrapped food. You should be washing your vegetables and produce with soap and water. Make sure that after you unpack all your groceries that you wash your hands.

Q: Can you get coronavirus through food?
A: There is no evidence to support that coronavirus is transmitted through food. It’s generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”

Q: Is it safe to get takeout from restaurants?
A: Yes, but you want to wipe down the packaging and containers. It is good idea to disinfect takeout containers and wash your hands afterward. The coronavirus is a respiratory virus and it’s easy to touch your face.

Q: Is it safe to go to the dentist?
A: Unless for emergency dental work, you should not go.

CDC, Government of Canada,
Information up to date as of March 22, 2020


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