What Do We Actually Know About COVID-19 So Far?

According to a story from Newswise, the ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has become the subject of wild speculation. In our divided nation, many people have chosen to hear what they want to hear when it comes to information related to the virus. Partially as a result of this, the pandemic continues to rage on out of control in the US, with over 250,000 deaths in the country now attributed to the virus this year. However, through the morass of disinformation and speculation, the facts about COVID-19 can still be found. It’s understandable to be confused about what’s been happening, but here are some definite facts about the virus that have been established.

What We Know About COVID-19/Coronavirus

  1. COVID-19 is very contagious and can be spread easily. It’s been clear from the beginning that the disease can be spread easily through close contact with either an infected person or a contaminated surface. By now, it’s clear that airborne spread is also possible, meaning that the disease can be transferred by inhaling viral particles.
  2. It is possible for COVID-19 to infect practically anyone, including children. While most cases are mild, it is possible for people of any age group to experience severe, long-lasting disease.
  3. Sunlight, high temperatures, and humidity can help inactivate the virus more quickly. Meanwhile, cooler temperatures and drier air can allow the viral particles to survive longer. A calculator that can predict the survival times of the particles on surfaces and in the air based on specific conditions is available.
  4. Symptoms of infection begin to appear five days after exposure on average. In addition, carriers are most contagious before their symptoms appear. The latest findings indicate that about 40 percent of infections are the result of pre-symptomatic transmission. Around 12 percent of cases are the result of spread from asymptomatic carriers. This is why it is important for anyone that may have been exposed to a COVID-positive person should get a test.
  5. The most common signs and symptoms include fever (which is often the first symptom to appear), fatigue, shortness of breath, and coughing. These symptoms can persist for several months in some cases. Most patients ultimately show signs of lung damage. Other symptoms include sore throat, loss of taste and smell, chills, headaches, and muscle pain. Less common symptoms include eye infections and gastrointestinal disturbances. In severe cases, neurological symptoms may appear.
  6. It is possible for someone to get the disease more than once, known as re-infection. However, it appears to be rare. How long antibodies can provide protection remains unclear.
  7. Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, have been shown in repeated studies to be effective in preventing viral spread. In fact, basically everyone could benefit from using a mask in public spaces. The effectiveness of masks increases as a greater percentage of the population uses them. Unfortunately, masks have been made a hot button political topic and many people refuse to wear them; some states still do not have mask orders in place. N95 respirators should be reserved for medical personnel or high risk persons. Masks made of multi-layered, raised visible cotton fibers are considered the most useful.
  8. Scientific studies also support the continued use of social distancing measures. Places that instituted lockdowns and closures more quickly saw reduced mortality rates.

This information has been compiled from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, which began publishing its Master Question List (MQL) in the spring.

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