Overview

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID 19) is a newly identified coronavirus that can cause potentially fatal pneumonia. The worldwide and rapid spread of the virus has lead the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the transmission of COVID-19 a pandemic.  While South Korea has been able to reduce the spread of COVID-19, there remains some transmission of the virus in the country.  There have been no cases at Mason Korea.

Mason Korea takes everyone's safety with utmost seriousness and continues to follow the recommendations of the public health authorities, the Korean Ministry of Education, and the U.S. embassy regarding measures to protect the health and safety of our entire community of students, faculty, and staff.

You can do your part to protect the Mason and the greater community by practicing social distancing in everyday life.

This is a rapidly changing situation. This page will be updated as additional guidance becomes available from public health officials and others.

1. What is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

2. What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

3. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of people with the disease have died. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

4. How does COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 2 meters (about 6 feet) away from a person who is sick.

5. Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be transmitted through the air?

Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.  See previous answer on “How does COVID-19 spread?”

6. Can COVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

While the main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is sneezing or coughing, evidence of asymptomatic transmission of the virus is increasing. Moreover, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms, which they may not recognize having. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who does not feel ill.  WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19 and will continue to share updated findings.   

7. Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?

Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 2 meters (about 6 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. For more information, see basic protective measures against the new coronavirus.

8. Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

The question of mask wearing has shifted over the course of the pandemic.  WHO continues to recommend the wearing of masks only for those who have symptoms of COVID-19 and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever.

However, WHO also recognizes that countries should make their own decisions about masks, through "a risk-based approach to be considered by decision makers when deciding in which settings and circumstances non-medical masks could be used in the community."  Both the US and Korea recommend or require the wearing of masks in many situations (particularly in places where people cannot follow the rules of social distancing).  The goal here is less self-protection than the protection of others in case the person wearing the mask has, without realizing it, the COVID-19 virus.

WHO also continues to emphasize that masks alone are not sufficient for preventing transmission of the disease.  Even when wearing masks, other disease transmission practices must be followed: frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 2 meters (about 6 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. For more information, see basic protective measures against the new coronavirus.

9. How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

10. Prevention Tips

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 2 meters (about 6 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs, sneezes or even speaks they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain a virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

 

* Dr. Lisa Park, Executive Director of Student Health Services at George Mason University, answers questions on coronavirus/COVID-19.

References:
https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Update: 23 February, 2020