Recognizing the symptoms of coronavirus

ELLSWORTH — Fever. Cough. Shortness of breath.

If you develop these symptoms and you think you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, you should contact your doctor.

Anyone experiencing difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion or bluish lips should seek immediate medical attention, according to information provided on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a new virus that first emerged in China. It primarily spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people up to about 6 feet away and be inhaled, leading to infection.

Although it’s possible that someone who is not showing symptoms can spread the virus, this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads, according to the CDC website.

It is also believed that transmission can occur from touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching one’s face, but this is also not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

“It’s more important to note the people than the place,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers have determined that the virus can live on a surface for several hours, Shah said. But those results are from controlled laboratory conditions. Whether the virus can live on a surface in the real world has not been determined.

In order for a virus on a surface to be infectious, it must be alive, it must be picked up and entered into a human body and it must be viable enough to reproduce and cause an infection, Shah said.

What kinds of surfaces the virus can live on and for how long have yet to be determined.

“Food is not known to be a way to transmit the virus based on what we know right now,” Shah said Monday.

Researchers believe the key to transmission is still most closely connected to close personal contact, that is, being within 6 feet of an infected individual. Passing an infected person in a hallway is much less likely to lead to transmission.

Less likely does not mean the risk is nonexistent. There is evidence of community spread in Maine, particularly in Cumberland County. Community spread means infections not traced back to travel. The infected individuals do not know how or where they became infected, Shah said.

“We honor local control in Maine,” said Shah, adding that the Maine CDC has not issued any mandates over who should be tested. That decision remains up to the patients’ physicians. The general guidelines are that a person who develops symptoms after being in close personal contact with an infected person for at least 15 minutes should be tested.

Someone who has been in close contact with an infected person but not diagnosed should be self-quarantined for at least 14 days. People can be released from quarantine after they are asymptomatic and have tested negative for the virus twice over a 24-hour period, he said.

The U.S. CDC advises people to wash their hands thoroughly after being out in public, and after blowing their noses, coughing or sneezing. People also should avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands.

It’s also important to avoid contact with people who are sick. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and immediately throw it away. Regularly disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently.

Shah said whatever officials do before an outbreak will seem like an overreaction. But whatever they do afterward won’t seem like enough. He urged people to avoid panic and negativity.

“I urge everyone to think about the positive, or frame actions they need to take in the most positive terms possible,” said Shah.

“I try not to think about avoiding touching my face. I just try to think about keeping my hands below my shoulders,” he said. “I don’t try to think about social isolation. I try to think about finding new and different ways to connect with people I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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