Perhaps the most stressful aspects of dealing with the spread of COVID-19 are caused by pervasive uncertainty. Researchers around the world are trying to change this, but right now, what we don’t know about this newest coronavirus far outstrips what we do. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers on topics ranging from basic information to school closures to how best to prepare your home. You can also find out more from the World Health Organization (WHO) website. Here are just a few examples from each:
Information selected from the CDC COVID-19 website:
Q: What is a novel coronavirus?
A: A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
Q: What is the difference between self-isolating, self-quarantining, and distancing?
A: Quarantine means restricting activities or separating people who are not ill themselves but may have been exposed to COVID-19. The goal is to prevent spread of the disease at the time when people just develop symptoms.
Isolation means separating people who are ill with symptoms of COVID-19 and may be infectious to prevent the spread of the disease.
Physical distancing means being physically apart. WHO recommends keeping at least 1-metre distance from others. This is a general measure that everyone should take even if they are well with no known exposure to COVID-19.
Q: I have heard different things from different sources, how long can coronavirus survive on most surfaces?
A: The most important thing to know about coronavirus on surfaces is that they can easily be cleaned with common household disinfectants that will kill the virus. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard.
As, always clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
Q: How can I help my child continue learning while school is not in session?
A: Stay in touch with your child’s school.Many schools are offering lessons online (virtual learning). Review assignments from the school, and help your child establish a reasonable pace for completing the work. You may need to assist your child with turning on devices, reading instructions, and typing answers.
Create a schedule and routine for learning at home, but remain flexible. Have consistent bedtimes, and get up at the same time, Monday through Friday. Structure the day for learning, free time, healthy meals and snacks, and physical activity. Allow flexibility in the schedule—it’s okay to adapt based on your day.
Consider the needs and adjustment required for your child’s age group.
The transition to being at home will be different for preschoolers, K-5, middle school students, and high school students. Talk to your child about expectations and how they are adjusting to being at home versus at school.Consider ways your child can stay connected with their friends without spending time in person.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents and guardians of children and youth with special needs?
A: Helping children understand and follow recommendations, like social distancing and wearing cloth face coverings, can be challenging if your child has intellectual disabilities, sensory issues, or other special healthcare needs.
Keeping children at home and sheltering in place can lower stress created by social distancing and cloth face covering recommendations. Reach out to others for help in running essential errands.
Behavioral techniques can be used to address behavioral challenges and to develop new routines. These include social stories, video modeling, picture schedules, and visual cues. Try rewarding your child in small ways with his or her favorite non-food treat or activities to help switch routines and to follow recommendations.Many of the organizations you turn to for information and support around your child’s complex, chronic medical condition may have information on their websites to help families address issues related to COVID-19.
Information selected from the WHO COVID-19 website:
Q: Although we know that COVID-19 is similar to influenza in the symptoms it presents and in that it is transmitted via contact and fomites (objects or materials that can carry infection), what are the differences between this novel coronavirus and the flu?
A: The speed of transmission is an important point of difference between the two viruses. Influenza has a shorter median incubation period (the time from infection to appearance of symptoms) and a shorter serial interval (the time between successive cases) than COVID-19 virus. The serial interval for COVID-19 virus is estimated to be 5-6 days, while for influenza virus, the serial interval is 3 days. This means that influenza can spread faster than COVID-19.
Further, transmission in the first 3-5 days of illness, or potentially pre-symptomatic transmission –transmission of the virus before the appearance of symptoms – is a major driver of transmission for influenza. In contrast, while we are learning that there are people who can shed COVID-19 virus 24-48 hours prior to symptom onset, at present, this does not appear to be a major driver of transmission.
The reproductive number – the number of secondary infections generated from one infected individual – is understood to be between 2 and 2.5 for COVID-19 virus, higher than for influenza. However, estimates for both COVID-19 and influenza viruses are very context and time-specific, making direct comparisons more difficult.
Children are important drivers of influenza virus transmission in the community. For COVID-19 virus, initial data indicates that children are less affected than adults and that clinical attack rates in the 0-19 age group are low. Further preliminary data from household transmission studies in China suggest that children are infected from adults, rather than vice versa.
While the range of symptoms for the two viruses is similar, the fraction with severe disease appears to be different. For COVID-19, data to date suggest that 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infection, requiring oxygen and 5% are critical infections, requiring ventilation. These fractions of severe and critical infection would be higher than what is observed for influenza infection.
Mortality for COVID-19 appears higher than for influenza, especially seasonal influenza. While the true mortality of COVID-19 will take some time to fully understand, the data we have so far indicate that the crude mortality ratio (the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases) is between 3-4%, the infection mortality rate (the number of reported deaths divided by the number of infections) will be lower. For seasonal influenza, mortality is usually well below 0.1%. However, mortality is to a large extent determined by access to and quality of health care.
Q: Can COVID-19 be passed to infants through breastfeeding? If I have COVID-19 should I switch to formula?
A: Transmission of active COVID-19 (virus that can cause infection) through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected to date. There is no reason to avoid or stop breastfeeding.
No. There are always risks associated with giving infant formula milk to newborns and infants in all settings. The risks associated with giving infant formula milk are increased whenever home and community conditions are compromised, such as reduced access to health services if a baby becomes unwell, reduced access to clean water and/or access to supplies of infant formula milk are difficult or not guaranteed, affordable and sustainable.
The numerous benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with the COVID-19 virus.
Q: Has violence against women increased during the pandemic?
A: Violence against women is highly prevalent, and intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence. During health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women tends to increase.
Whilst data are scarce, reports from across the world, including China, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and other countries suggest a significant increase in domestic violence cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports from other countries suggest a reduction in survivors seeking services due to a combination of lockdown measures and not wanting to attend health services for fear of infection.
Q: What ethical principles should guide our decisions surrounding treatment and allocation of (possibly) scarce resources surrounding COVID-19?
A: When applying ethical guidelines for resource allocation, we should consider the extent to which resources are overwhelmed in the current context. It would be inappropriate, for instance, to exclude population groups from being allocated a resource (for example, ventilators) at the outset of a pandemic when capacity remains. When resources are scarce, though – when there is an insufficient supply to meet everyone’s needs – resource allocation should be guided by well established, broadly applicable ethical principles, unless there are characteristics of the outbreak that justify different courses of action. Irrelevant characteristics of populations within countries, such as ethnicity, race or creed, should play no role in any resource allocation in any pandemic. This reflects our commitment to treating people with equal respect.
Q: How do I keep active while staying at home?
A: Try and reduce long periods of time spent sitting, whether for work, studying, watching TV, reading, or using social media or playing games using screens. Reduce sitting for long periods by taking short 3-5 minute breaks every 20-30 minutes. Simply stand up and stretch or even better, take a walk around the house, up and down the stairs, or into the garden. By just moving around and stretching you can improve your health and wellbeing. For more ideas and illustrations of healthy stretches see here.
Set up a regular routine to be active every day, by planning a physical activity or exercise break either by yourself, by joining an online class, or by setting up a time to be active online with your friends or colleagues. Making a specific time to be active helps ensure you get your daily physical activity. Put the time in your diary, and it will help remind you. Stick with it, as this will help you build a regular routine, and help you adjust to new ways of working, study and family life under COVID-19 restrictions
Be active with your family and friends, connecting with others can help you and your family in the home and elsewhere spend time together and be active. Planning time to be active with your children with active games at home, walks in the parks, or cycling can be a way the whole family can relax, be together and be active and healthy whilst at home.
Set yourself and your family Be Active goals, by choosing a specific type of activity, time of day and/or number of minutes you will do every day. Get each family member to choose their own goal which sets a bit of a challenge but is realistic with help from family or friends and motivation. Record your progress on a weekly activity chart and, if you think it would help, reward yourself with something you value.