About Coronavirus (COVID-19)
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that originate in animals but are known to cause respiratory infections in humans. Novel coronaviruses include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan, China in late 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 spreads through direct contact with respiratory droplets or someone who is affected with the virus (e.g., when they cough or sneeze). These droplets can spread up to 2 metres or 6 feet. A person could also get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
In general, human coronaviruses commonly cause mild, but occasionally more severe respiratory infections. It is estimated that they cause about 15% of common colds. Older patients and those with chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Some of the symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- New onset of cough or worsening chronic cough
- Muscle aches and tiredness
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Runny nose, nasal congestion (without other known cause)
- Sore throat
- Decrease or loss of sense of taste or smell
- Chills, headaches
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- For those over 70 years of age, they may experience symptoms of delirium, unexplained falls, acute functional decline or worsening of chronic conditions.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus.
How do you prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Everyone has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Protect yourself and others by following prevention and management measures:
- Follow guidance from your local public health authority
- Clean your hands often
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth
- Cover your cough
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- Wear a mask or face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth
- Avoid close contact with someone who is sick
- Practice physical distancing:
- limit activities outside of the home
- When outside of the home, stay at least 2 meters (6 feet) away from other people whenever possible
Is there a COVID-19 vaccine?
Safe and reliable vaccines are effective for reducing the impact of infectious disease. On December 9, 2020, Health Canada authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada. On December 15, 2020, Ontario began rolling out its three-phased implementation plan for administering the COVID-19 vaccine. Visit the Government of Ontario’s website for more information on Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine program and vaccine eligibility criteria.
Can the same person get COVID-19 more than once?
To date, there is no well-documented evidence of people becoming infected more than once. Most people who have been infected with COVID-19 develop antibodies (substances the body makes to protect against future infection as a result of past infection or vaccination). However, it is still uncertain if these antibodies will protect a person from future infections. More research is needed to help answer these questions.
How long is someone with COVID-19 infectious for?
The length of time someone is infectious with COVID-19 is not known for certain. Some studies suggest that people are no longer infectious after 7 or 8 days from the start of their symptoms. However, after that time it is still possible to find parts of the virus in the nose and throat of some people. Ontario guidelines indicate that infected people with symptoms should generally remain separate from others (isolated) for 14 days after they first developed symptoms. After that they are considered no longer infectious, as long as they have no fever and their symptoms have been improving for at least 72 hours.
How long can COVID-19 survive on different surfaces?
There is very little information about how long COVID-19 can survive on and spreads from surfaces at this time. One study found that the virus can live for up to 72 hours, depending on the type of surface it was on. A person may be exposed to COVID-19 if they touch a surface that the virus has landed on that has not been properly cleaned and disinfected and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes without cleaning their hands.
How is COVID-19 diagnosed?
COVID-19 is diagnosed through a lab test known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction testing), which tells if a person currently has the virus. Testing is performed in the lab to help find even tiny amounts of the virus by amplifying a virus’ genetic material to a level where it can be detected. The test requires a sample from a person. This sample is collected by a health care provider, typically using a swab inserted into a person’s nose or throat.
What is the treatment for COVID-19?
There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People ill with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. People with more severe illness may require hospitalization.
PHO Rounds: International Border Surveillance Study
Arriving international passengers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport were enrolled in a prospective study of COVID-19 risk upon arrival and during quarantine in September and October 2020.