Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) & Influenza (Flu)
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, first detected in China in December 2019, is a very communicable virus (easily spread from person-to-person) that causes a lower respiratory lung infection. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.
What is a pandemic?
A pandemic is a word used to describe a new virus that spreads to multiple countries throughout the world. It does NOT tell us how severe the virus is.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Based on confirmed cases of COVID-19, reported symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
The CDC believes that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as many as 14 days after exposure.
What is the difference between the common cold, allergies, influenza, and COVID-19?
The common cold is an upper respiratory infection that presents with a runny/stuff nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, sneezing, mild headache, feeling tired, and sometimes low-grade fever and slight body aches.
Allergies (currently tree pollens) present with itchy/watery eyes, sneezing, runny/stuffy nose, scratchy throat, and post-nasal drip (most often only localized to the head).
Influenza is an upper respiratory infection that presents with fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue, and vomiting and diarrhea in some people.
COVID-19 is a lower respiratory infection that presents most often with fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Most symptoms are felt in the chest and lungs. Those with COVID-19 don’t usually have a runny nose or sinus congestion like you would see with the common cold. Because COVID-19 is a new virus, no one has immunity.
How is the COVID-19 spread?
- Person-to-person who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or longer)
- Respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes which can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or inhaled into the lungs
- It may be possible that a person who touches a contaminated surface or object with the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes may cause the virus to spread (surfaces can be contaminated by an infected person coughing or sneezing without covering)
- People are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a mask to protect themselves. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms to help prevent the spread of the virus to others.
What is being done?
Per the CDC, global efforts are focused on containing the spread of the virus and decreasing the impact of the virus, but we all must do our part.
How can we help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
- Encouraging students and staff to stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever. The fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine such as tylenol or motrin.
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces and objects such as tables, keyboards, and doorknobs which may be contaminated with germs. If surfaces are dirty, wash them with soap and water first.
- Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if unable to wash your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer will be available in all rooms.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands after touching a used tissue.
- If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow and make sure your nose and mouth are pressed into your elbow so that the sound is muffled to prevent respiratory droplets from going into the air and infecting others as well as surfaces.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because germs can be spread this way.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Put distance between yourself and other people (at least 6 feet) if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is very important for those who have existing medical conditions or who are greater than 60 years of age.
- If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Call your doctor if you:
Develop symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 OR have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 such as China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea or a domestic region of impact in the United States.
How can I protect myself?
Avoid people who may be infected. The CDC recently issued an advisory for older adults and those with underlying health issues to avoid:
- Crowded places
- Non-essential air travel
- Cruise ships
Should I travel within the United States?
Cases of COVID-19 have been reported in many states. Crowded settings like airports may increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19 if there are others who have COVID-19.
We continue to receive guidance from the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in the United States.
- CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Massachusetts Information on the Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
It’s not too late to get your flu shot if you haven’t already done so. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against the flu. Even if someone does get sick with the flu after being vaccinated, the data suggests that their illness may be milder.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Care for Someone Who Has the Flu
- Difficulty breathing or chest pain.
- Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
- Vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
- Signs of dehydration such as not urinating or dizziness when standing
- Is less responsive than normal or becomes confused