“Stock Up On Information, Not Toilet Paper”
That is a direct quote from Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin and couldn’t be more true.
There are a lot of questions being asked (rightly so) and unfortunately a lot of inaccurate responses going around. Here are some FACTS about COVID-19 that have been discovered as of March 13, 2020:
- What is it?? What do all these initials mean??
COVID-19 is a disease that affects your respiratory system by causing viral infections in your nose, throat, and lungs.
- This disease sounds scary. I’ve heard words like “pandemic” and “quarantine”.
Pandemic refers to the geographic location and the speed of transmission of a disease, not to the severity of a disease. A pandemic refers to a disease that has spread over a large geographic area, usually including international borders, relatively quickly. The word pandemic does not mean that the disease will have severe symptoms in all of the people who become infected.
What do people mean when they use the word “quarantine”?
There is the generalized use of the term “quarantine” where you don’t have the virus but voluntarily want to keep yourself at home to avoid getting the virus.
Then there is the type of quarantine we refer to as “self isolation” when you are ill with the virus (or suspected ill with the virus) and your doctor tells you not to leave the home unless necessary. For more information on self isolation, see:
This is not the same as a “lock down”, where the government makes it a law that you have to stay in your homes at all times.
Why do we quarantine?
It is all about slowing the spread of the virus. It’s about preventing everyone from becoming sick all at once and for those who do become ill and need hospital care (only about 20% of people who get the virus will need this), not overwhelming the health care system so we have hospital beds in which to put these sick people.
- How can I contract the virus?
Some studies have found the virus in blood, urine and feces but the jury is still out on whether these fluids can be a form of transmission of the disease.
- Is the air filled with the virus?? Will I get it if I just walk outside?
Short answer: No
Longer answer: Infection control specialists differentiate between diseases that can travel through the air briefly on droplets and diseases that aerosolize and float around in the air for longer periods. If a virus floats around in the air for longer periods in a concentrated form that you can breathe in and contract, it is considered an “airborne” virus. COVID-19 is not currently considered an airborne virus.
Even longer answer: This virus is new, and we haven’t been able to study it for very long.
One study that looked at the persistence of coronaviruses in general reported that these viruses could live up to 4 days on wood, 5 days on metal, paper, and glass, and 9 days on plastic. https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(20)30046-3/fulltext
Another recent study (that has not yet been peer reviewed or officially published) has looked at how long COVID-19 could survive on different surfaces after shaking the virus up in a machine and aerosolizing it. It was found that the virus may be able to live in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on stainless steel and plastic for up to 3 days after being aerosolized in that machine. https://www.scribd.com/document/451558810/COVID-Surface-study#from_embed
That doesn’t mean that this virus has an airborne transmission. This virus is currently believed to be transmitted by droplets, contaminated hands, and surfaces. So you need to touch a surface that has been contaminated and not cleaned and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, or be within 6 feet of someone who has sneezed or coughed and then directly breath the droplet in through your mouth or nose.
In Singapore, the air was sampled in hospital rooms occupied by patients with COVID-19 and the virus was not found in the air. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762692
- How can I prevent it?
Wash/sanitize your hands regularly and thoroughly and try not to touch your face.
FYI for those of you who love stats as much as I do: Just how often do I really touch my face? In one observational study, students were noted to touch their face 23 x per hour!! (Kwok, Y.L., Gralton, J., and McLaws, M.L. Face touching: a frequent habit that has implications for hand hygiene. Am J Infect Contr. 2015; 43: 112–114)
Practice “social distancing”.
Wipe down/sanitize surfaces that are commonly used like public computer keyboards or countertops or your cell phone.
Avoid directly touching objects that are commonly known to be dirty like using a paper towel to open bathroom doors or using your knuckle to hit the button on the elevator or a public light switch.
Stay home if you don’t feel well.
Avoid non essential travel outside of the city.
- Will antibiotics or the flu shot help prevent me from getting COVID-19?
However, it is still important to take any antibiotics your doctor has prescribed to you to treat other infections you have and to get the flu shot to prevent other viral illnesses.
- What do I do if I think I have it?
As of March 13, 2020, Manitoba Health is directing people who have these symptoms to call Health Links –Info Sante and they will help to determine your next steps.
Health Links: (204) 788-8200 OR 1-888-315-9257. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If they feel you need to be tested for COVID-19, they will direct you to a community screening location (usually at one of the ACCESS centres).
If it is an emergency because you cannot breathe, call 911 as you would normally.
This link will direct you to the Manitoba Government’s latest bulletins:
- What happens if I do get the virus?
Approximately 20% of people who get the virus will need to be hospitalized for medical care – these tend to be people who are over the age of 65 and have other comorbidities (other illnesses), or those with compromised immune systems.
So what should I do? Stay at home as much as you can and avoid having unnecessary visitors to try and avoid spreading the disease. It’s Netflix time, baby!
- What is my take away message here??
That it is important to take this virus seriously, but not to panic.
Wash your hands and try not to touch your face.
For more information on COVID-19, make sure to look for reputable sources such as the Government of Manitoba health sites: https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/coronavirus/public.html
Not the panic and buy all the toilet paper and Tylenol sites.