COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions
Austin County News Online continues to monitor the spread of the coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, as more cases are confirmed in the United States and around the world. The information below is the guidance available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
What is COVID-19 and how does it spread?
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus, which can cause illness in humans and animals. Those who have become sick are reported to suffer coughs, fever, breathing difficulties and tiredness. In severe cases, organ failure has been reported.
- What experts know about COVID-19, a relatively new virus, is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. The World Health Organization named this illness “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated COVID-19).
- Person-to-person: The CDC says that the virus is spread mainly from person-to-person, which means those who are in close contact with one another, and/or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
- CDC officials say that it is possible a person can contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or an object that has the virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, but they said this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
How can I tell if I have the coronavirus?
The CDC says people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic – the sickest. Still, it’s possible to spread the disease before showing symptoms, so a person can feel fine and still have it, just as with other viruses. Such cases have been reported, but are not thought to be the main way it spreads. The WHO reports that most people – roughly 80 percent – recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?
Medical experts across the globe are rushing to find a cure. However, there is not one at this time. The disease is viral, which means antibiotics will not help; the antiviral drugs that work against the flu do not work against coronavirus. Those with a weak immune system and those who already are sick are urged to be especially cautious.
What is the risk for developing the coronavirus in Texas?
The Texas Health and Human Services said the risk for all Texans remains low. Continue to avoid close contact with people who are sick; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; stay home when you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; avoid shaking hands; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Are there any cases of COVID-19 in Austin County?
To date, no cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Austin County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The state agency continues to monitor the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates reports of confirmed cases several times a week. The risk for all Texans remains low.
How can I protect myself from the virus?
Stay educated on the disease by reading the CDC website. Most people who become infected experience a mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.
Take care of yourself by doing the following:
- Stay home if you don’t feel well. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for 20 seconds. This helps kill viruses that might be on your hand.
- Stay at least three feet away from someone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Follow good respiratory hygiene, which means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
Should I wear a mask?
The WHO suggests people with no respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, do not need to wear a medical mask, but those who do have symptoms of COVID-19 and those caring for individuals who have symptoms (coughing, sneezing) should wear a mask.
What if I have plans to travel?
The CDC has established a geographic risk-stratification criteria for the purpose of issuing travel health notices for countries with COVID-19 transmission and guiding public health management decisions for people with potential travel-related exposures to COVID-19. A number of factors inform the geographic risk stratification, including size, geographic distribution and epidemiology of the outbreak. View a risk assessment map.
As of March 3, 2020, the following countries are categorized as Level 1, 2 and 3 COVID-19 countries:
- Level 3 COVID-19: China, Iran, Italy and South Korea (avoid all nonessential travel)
- Level 2 COVID-19: Japan (older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions consider postponing travel)
- Level 1 COVID-19: Hong Kong (practice usual precautions)
What if I am returning from travel?
If you were in a country with a COVID-19 outbreak and have felt sick with fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after you left, you should do the following:
- Seek medical advice – Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Do not travel on public transportation while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
- Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 percent to 95 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Read about the differences between isolation and quarantine.