COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus, not previously identified in humans, responsible for an outbreak of respiratory illness that became a global pandemic in 2020. COVID-19 is different from other coronaviruses that cause mild illness, such as the common cold.
COVID-19 is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets that are released into the air when a person coughs, sneezes, talks, shouts, or sings. Masks are a barrier that helps prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others. A mask protects the wearer and those around them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states face masks can be safely worn by all children 2 years of age and older, including most children with special health conditions, with rare exceptions. Children under 2 years should not wear a mask due to the risk of suffocation.
It is recommended children who are not vaccinated wear masks when they are:
- In childcare, at school, and other group activities
- Unable to stay 6 feet away from others
Teach children how to wear the mask properly. To help a young child feel more comfortable wearing a mask:
- Look in the mirror with the face mask on and talk about it
- Practice wearing the face mask at home to help your child get used to it
- Put a mask on a stuffed animal
- Personalize the masks to make them fun
- Show your child pictures of other children wearing masks
Children should follow the same guidelines as adults for proper mask-wearing, which includes:
- Before putting on the mask:
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and in a sufficient amount to rub in for 20 seconds
- Make sure the mask is the proper size to cover the nose, mouth, and chin completely
- Place the mask securely over the mouth and nose and stretch it from ear to ear so it fits snugly along the sides of the face without any gaps
- Masks should be stored in a bag or container
- Masks should not be shared with others
- Wash and completely dry cloth face masks after each wearing
What Are Symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 appear about 2 to 14 days after exposure and include:
Seek immediate medical attention (call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital’s emergency department) if you have warning signs of severe illness:
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Bluish lips or face
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
Less common symptoms of COVID-19 may include:
What Causes COVID-19?
COVID-19 is transmitted from person-to-person through respiratory droplets propelled into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Less commonly, COVID-19 may be transmitted when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes.
Though there have been isolated cases of animals testing positive for COVID-19, there is no evidence COVID-19 spreads from pets to people.
It is believed COVID-19 originated from a live animal market in Wuhan, China.
How Is COVID-19 Diagnosed?
COVID-19 is diagnosed with a physical examination to check if patients have any of the characteristic symptoms of COVID-19, and a patient history that may include any known recent exposure to the virus.
If COVID-19 is suspected, viral tests are used to confirm a diagnosis. Some viral tests are rapid and results are available within a few hours but are less reliable. Other tests may take several days to receive results but the results are more reliable.
- PCR test (genetic or molecular test)
- Results can take from hours to up to one week
- Has a lower chance of false-negative results (a false negative means the test does not detect COVID even though the patient has it) and is more accurate
- Antigen test
- Results are available in less than one hour
- Has a higher rate of false-negatives
An antibody test may be used to establish if a person had a past COVID-19 infection, but it is not used to diagnose current infections because it takes up to three weeks following infection for the body to produce antibodies to the virus.
What Is the Treatment for COVID-19?
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19.
The goal of treatment in mild cases of COVID-19 is supportive care aimed at relieving symptoms. Patients with mild illness are usually advised to remain home and self-isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading the virus. Home treatment for mild symptoms may include:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and fever reducers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- Cough suppressants
- Adequate fluid intake
Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic proteins that imitate the immune system’s ability to fight off foreign invaders such as viruses. A monoclonal antibody medication called bamlanivimab is specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, and is designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells.
Bamlanivimab has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. Bamlanivimab is not indicated for use in severe cases.
For more severe illness, patients may require hospitalization. Treatments may include:
- Antiviral therapy with remdesivir
- Convalescent plasma
- Immunoglobulin products
- Interleukin inhibitors
- Kinase inhibitors
- Antithrombotic therapy: anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy
- High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen
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