COVID-19 is what is called a Coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. They can be transferred to humans by close contact with live animals containing the Coronavirus in question. Coronaviruses in humans can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)..‎This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally.

WHO defines a pandemic as, “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”.

By this definition, pandemics can be said to occur annually in each of the temperate southern and northern hemispheres, given that seasonal epidemics cross international boundaries and affect a large number of people. However, seasonal epidemics are not considered pandemics.

The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms.

Most people recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. Around 1 out of every 5 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or cancer, are at higher risk of developing a serious illness. However, anyone can catch COVID-19 and become seriously ill.

The vast majority of those who catch COVID-19, have gotten it directly from someone who is ill and what is called ‘symptomatic’. The disease spreads primarily from person to person through small respiratory droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks. These droplets do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. This is why it is important to stay at least 1 meter) away from others. People can also catch COVID-19 if they touch an object that may contain infected droplets from a person infected with the virus. These droplets can land on shared objects and surfaces around such as tables, doorknobs, and handrails. People then touch these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. This is why it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand rub and avoid touching your face.

You should first self isolate. Then, use the Certified SAFE self assessment tool. You can complete this assessment on yourself. If you answer yes to one or more of the questions, it is recommended to seek medical assistance from your care provider.

You need to self isolate:
– If you are returning from travel outside of Canada
– You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (ex. fever, coughing, diarrhea, and/or difficulty breathing).
– If a Public Health Authority official has identified someone diagnosed with COVID-19, with whom you have been in close contact recently.
– If you live in the same household as a confirmed COVID-19 case

Length of time of self isolation:
14 days isolation (incubation period) – If you have had contact with a suspected case of COVID-19 or are returning from travel outside of Canada, you must self-isolate for 14 days (incubation period).
10 days (contagious period) – If you are experiencing mild respiratory symptoms, we recommend that you self-isolate at home for at least 10 days from the time that your symptoms started. After 10 days, if all your symptoms have resolved, you can stop self-isolating. If after 10 days you still have symptoms, other than a cough, you should stay at home until these symptoms resolve and seek medical care if they do not. If at any time, you experience worsening symptoms and increased difficulty of breathing with exertion, do not hesitate to seek urgent medical care.