What Is COVID-19 And How You Can Help Limit Its Spread

What you can do to prepare and prevent the spread of COVID-19

Note: Below is an overview of best practices to prepare for and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This article is based on information provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO). These and other health authorities are the best resources for how best to manage public health and should be consulted frequently. 

What is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are part of a family of viruses that infect humans and animals. These viruses cause a variety of symptoms in humans, notably respiratory infections. People who contract coronaviruses experience symptoms ranging from relatively mild cold-like symptoms to more severe symptoms like fevers and shortness of breath. Aggressive strains of the virus can cause diseases like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a shorthand version of Coronavirus Disease 2019; it is the most recently discovered form of the coronavirus. First discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019, it has since spread to every habitable continent on the planet. It is also occasionally referred to as the novel (new) coronavirus, or simply the coronavirus. 

What are the symptoms?

Those who contract the COVID-19 most commonly experience a fever, fatigue, and dry cough. Others may experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. While most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without special treatment, others have experienced gradually worsening symptoms that require professional medical attention. Around 1 in 6 people become seriously ill and have serious difficulty breathing. 

When should I seek medical attention?

People who have a fever (body temperature of 38℃ or higher), cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention. Those who have underlying conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes are more likely to develop a serious illness. Self-assessment tools like the one available on Health Canada’s website can be used to determine if you might have contracted COVID-19 and what to do about it. 

How does it spread and how can it be prevented? 

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth. These droplets are spread when someone infected with the disease coughs, sneezes or exhales. It can be transmitted directly from person-to-person if the droplets are directly breathed in. It is also possible for droplets to land on surfaces that can be spread to another person if they touch infected surfaces and then touch their own eyes, nose or mouth. 

Droplets typically spread only 1-2 metres in distance. This is why social distancing guidelines recommend staying 2 metres away from one another to lower the chances of it spreading directly from human-to-human. Frequent hand washing in combination with avoiding touching one’s face can also help to mitigate the risk of catching the virus by touching surfaces. 

Those exhibiting any of the above symptoms must isolate themselves from contact with others for at least 14 days. This is also true if you’ve come into contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19 or if you’ve recently returned from outside Canada. 

Stay informed

Health experts’ and public health authorities are updating their recommendations on a daily basis. Staying informed and keeping up-to-date on the latest developments are ways that we can all do our part in mitigating the spread of the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic affects us all and we all have a responsibility in ensuring the health and safety of everyone in our shared community. By practicing social-distancing, staying home as much as possible, employing good hand-washing techniques and adapting our way of life to this new reality, we can limit stress on the healthcare system—and save lives.