The COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the globe.

By Leah Groth
Updated March 31, 2020

Coronavirus infections have relentlessly surged since the World Health Organization (WHO), on March 11, declared the new coronavirus a pandemic. Worldwide, more than 838,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed to date, according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time tracker. The US leads with more than 177,000 cases, more than Italy (106,000), Spain (94,000), and China (82,000). The US death toll exceeds 3,600 as of March 31.

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Ultimately, knowledge is power when it comes to protecting yourself and preventing the spread of coronavirus. As hospitals expand capacity and gather needed equipment and supplies, public health experts and government officials want you to do your part to keep yourself and others safe and help slow the spread of the infection.

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First, know the symptoms of COVID-19. According to the CDC, symptoms of the new coronavirus can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Further investigation of the disease has also found that those with the virus had diarrhea and vomiting one or two days prior to the development of their fevers and labored breathing. Also, be aware that symptoms may arise within days or up to two weeks after exposure, meaning an individual is contagious prior to showing any symptoms. 

Obviously you should also understand how coronavirus spreads. According to the most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC, COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person predominantly via respiratory transmission—essentially, coming into contact with respiratory droplets from the coughs and sneezes of those who are infected. Touching a surface or object with the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose, or eyes is another potential source of transmission.

Although SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19) has been found in the feces of people with COVID-19, little is know about whether the virus in stool is infectious, says the CDC. However, it adds, the risk of transmission from feces is believed to be low. Likewise, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, the potential for the virus to be passed along through blood and blood products is unknown, although the agency notes that respiratory viruses are not know to be transmitted via blood transfusions. 

Based on current CDC advice, you don’t need to run out and buy a face mask—unless you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or you're caring with someone who has the virus and can't wear a mask of their own. But if you’re not feeling well, stay home; avoid others who are sick; wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before eating and going to the bathroom; clean commonly touched surfaces and objects; maintain social distancing; and keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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