What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, while others affect various species of animals. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.
COVID-19 (short for coronavirus disease 2019) is a new disease not previously seen in humans. In rare cases, animal coronaviruses can infect people. Even rarer are cases where these viruses can then spread from person to person through close contact.
There have been two other recent cases of specific coronaviruses that have spread from animals to humans and which have caused severe illness in humans. These were SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002-2003 and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012.
How COVID-19 is Spread
Human coronaviruses cause infections of the respiratory system: the nose, throat and lungs. Such viruses commonly spread from an infected person through direct/indirect contact. This means:
- respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze (can travel up to 2 meters)
- 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
Symptoms of COVID-19
Those infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms, or have symptoms that present as the common cold or seasonal flu.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after initial exposure to COVID-19. Symptoms have included:
- dry cough
- exhaustion or fatigue
- difficulty breathing
- pneumonia in both lungs
In severe cases, a COVID-19 infection can lead to death.
Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, nor any natural health products that are authorized to protect against it.
If you have to travel at all, limit your contact with others for two weeks. This means self-isolation and staying at home. Contact Alberta Health Link at 811 for advice.
If you have symptoms:
- Self-isolate. Do not have visitors.
- If you must leave the house, keep a 2-metre distance from others.
- Wear a mask.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid individuals in hospitals and long-term care centres, especially older adults and those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.
- Call Alberta Health Link at 811 for further direction.
Remember: Proper hygiene is the #1 way to prevent infection and the spread of infection.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” in your head twice), especially after using the washroom, and before and after preparing food or eating.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Place a small amount (about the size of a nickel) of sanitizer into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together vigorously, ensuring you are covering in between your fingers, backs of hands, wrists and thumbs. You must keep rubbing until your hands are dry, as otherwise, the sanitizer will not fully protect you.
- When coughing or sneezing:
- cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
- dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined wastebasket
- wash your hands as soon as possible afterwards
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- Clean the following high-touch surfaces frequently with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1-part bleach to 9 parts water):
- door handles
- bedside tables
- television remotes
Health Canada has advised Canadians to wear a mask to reduce the spread of one’s own infection. In this instance, masks are an appropriate part of infection prevention and control measures. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading you when you cough or sneeze.
Please note, there is a potential risk of infection with improper mask use and disposal. Masks also need to be changed frequently.
For current information on COVID-19 and Canada please see the government of Canada website at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html