Steps to Avoid Close Contact in Coronavirus

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The rapid spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this rapidly spreading corona-virus outbreak a pandemic, and many countries are grappling with a rise in confirmed cases. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that will be necessary if the corona virus spreads within communities.

Below, you’ll find answers to a number of questions about corona virus and COVID-19. We will be adding new questions and updating answers as reliable information becomes available.

Should I go to the doctor or dentist for non urgent appointments?

During this period of social distancing, it is best to postpone non urgent appointments with your doctor or dentist. These may include regular well visits or dental cleanings, as well as follow-up appointments to manage chronic conditions if your health has been relatively stable in the recent past. You should also postpone routine screening tests, such as a mammogram or PSA blood test, if you are at average risk of disease. Many doctor’s offices have started restricting office visits to urgent matters only, so you may not have a choice in the matter.

As an alternative, doctor’s offices are increasingly providing health services. This may mean appointments by phone call, or virtual visits using a video chat service. Ask to schedule a health appointment with your doctor for a new or ongoing non urgent matter. If, after speaking to you, your doctor would like to see you in person, he or she will let you know.

What if your appointments are not urgent but also don’t fall into the low-risk category? For example, if you have been advised to have periodic scans after cancer remission, if your doctor sees you regularly to monitor for a condition for which you’re at increased risk, or if your treatment varies based on your most recent test results? In these and similar cases, call your doctor for advice.

Should I postpone my elective surgery?

It’s likely that your elective surgery or procedure will be canceled or rescheduled by the hospital or medical center in which you are scheduled to have the procedure. If not, then during this period of social distancing, you should consider postponing any procedure that can wait.

That being said, keep in mind that “elective” is a relative term. For instance, you may not have needed immediate surgery for sciatica caused by a herniated disc. But the pain may be so severe that you would not be able to endure postponing the surgery for weeks or perhaps months. In that case, you and your doctor should make a shared decision about proceeding.

Is it safe to take ibuprofen to treat symptoms of COVID-19?

Some French doctors advise against using ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, many generic versions) for COVID-19 symptoms based on reports of otherwise healthy people with confirmed COVID-19 who were taking an NSAID for symptom relief and developed a severe illness, especially pneumonia. These are only observations and not based on scientific studies.

The WHO initially recommended using acetaminophen instead of ibuprofen to help reduce fever and aches and pains related to this corona virus infection, but now states that either acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. Rapid changes in recommendations create uncertainty. Since some doctors remain concerned about NSA IDs, it still seems prudent to choose acetaminophen first, with a total dose not exceeding 3,000 milligrams per day.

However, if you suspect or know you have COVID-19 and cannot take acetaminophen, or have taken the maximum dose and still need symptom relief, taking over-the-counter ibuprofen does not need to be specifically avoided.

How reliable is the test for COVID-19?

Tests are becoming more widely available and are being processed in commercial labs and academic centers across the country. In the US, the most common test for the COVID-19 virus looks for viral RNA in a sample taken with a swab from a person’s nose or throat. Currently, you can expect the test results within three to four days. Likely the turnaround time for results will be shorter over the next few weeks.

If a test result comes back positive, it is almost certain that the person is infected.

A negative test result is less definite. An infected person could get a so-called “false negative” test result if the swab missed the virus, for example, or because of an inadequacy of the test itself. We also don’t yet know at what point during the course of illness a test becomes positive.

If you experience OVID-like symptoms and get a negative test result, there is no reason to repeat the test unless your symptoms get worse. If your symptoms do worsen, call your doctor or local or state healthcare department for guidance on further testing. You should also self-isolate at home. Wear a mask if you have one when interacting with members of your household. And practice social distancing.

How long can the corona virus stay airborne? I have read different estimates.

A study done by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Laboratory of Virology in the Division of Intramural Research in Hamilton, Montana helps to answer this question. The researchers used a neutralizer to blow corona viruses into the air. They found that infectious viruses could remain in the air for up to three hours. The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17, 2020.

How long can the corona virus that causes COVID-19 survive on surfaces?

A recent study found that the COVID-19 corona virus can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The researchers also found that this virus can hang out as droplets in the air for up to three hours before they fall. But most often they will fall more quickly.

There’s a lot we still don’t know, such as how different conditions, such as exposure to sunlight, heat, or cold, can affect these survival times.

As we learn more, continue to follow the CDC’s recommendations for cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects every day. These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.

If surfaces are dirty, first clean them using a detergent and water, then disinfect them. A list of products suitable for use against COVID-19 is available here. This list has been per-approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after bringing in packages, or after trips to the grocery store or other places where you may have come into contact with infected surfaces.

I have a chronic medical condition that puts me at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, even though I’m only in my 30s. What can I do to reduce my risk?

You can take steps to lower your risk of getting infected in the first place:

  • As much as possible, limit contact with people outside your family.
  • Maintain enough distance (six feet or more) between yourself and anyone outside your family.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • As best you can, avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day.

In addition, do your best to keep your condition well-controlled. That means following your doctor’s recommendations including taking medications as directed. If possible, get a 90-day supply of your prescription medications and request that they be mailed to you so you don’t have to go to the pharmacy to pick them up.

Call your doctor for additional advice specific to your condition.

I have asthma. If I get COVID-19, am I more likely to become seriously ill?

Yes, asthma may increase your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

However, you can take steps to lower your risk of getting infected in the first place. These include

  • social distancing
  • washing your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 to 30 seconds
  • not touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • staying away from people who are sick.

In addition, you should continue to take your asthma medicines as prescribed to keep your asthma under control. If you do get sick, follow your asthma action plan and call your doctor.

With schools closing in many parts of the country, is it okay to have babysitters or child care people in the house given no know exposures or illness in their homes?

The truth is that the fewer people you and your children are exposed to, the better. However, the reality is that not every family will be able to have a parent at home at all times.

All people can do is try to minimize the risk by doing things like:

  • choosing a babysitter who has minimal exposures to other people besides your family
  • limiting the number of babysitters. If you can keep it to one, that’s ideal, but if not keep the number as low as possible
  • making sure that the babysitter understands that he or she needs to practice social distancing, and needs to let you know (and not come to your house!) if he or she feels at all sick or has a known exposure to COVID-19
  • having the babysitter limit physical interactions and closeness with your children, to the extent that this is possible
  • making sure that everyone washes their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating.
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