Coronavirus Questions and Answers

Now that a tiger has tested positive, could my pet get coronavirus from me? Or could I become infected by my pet?

“There have been no reports of pets or livestock becoming ill with COVID-19 in the United States, and only four reported cases in the world of dogs and cats testing positive for the virus,” the American Veterinary Medical Association said April 5.

“At this point in time, there is no evidence that domestic animals, including pets and livestock, can spread COVID-19 to people.”

That statement came after the Bronx Zoo said a tiger was infected by a zoo employee who was “asymptomatically infected with the virus.” The zoo had been closed to the public since March 16.

The AVMA said, “out of an abundance of caution, and until more is known about this virus, you should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19.”

“If you have a service animal or you must care for your animals, including pets, wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them,” the veterinary association said.

“If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions,” including washing your hands before and after touching your pet.

Should I wear a face mask in public? If so, how do I make one?

The CDC recently changed its guidance on wearing face masks as more studies about asymptomatic spread pile up.

Now, the CDC “recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).”

But there are several important caveats and key points:

• The public should NOT buy surgical masks or N95 respirator masks. Those are desperately needed by health care workers who are in close contact with coronavirus patients every day.
• Instead, make your own cloth mask — it’s easy, and you don’t have to sew. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams shows how to make face masks with just a T-shirt and rubber bands in this CDC video. You can also use a bandana and a coffee filter.
• Don’t be fooled: The main benefit of wearing masks in public isn’t to protect you from getting sick. Rather, it’s to protect others from yourself if you’re sick or you’re an asymptomatic carrier. “This is more for people who might be infected and don’t know it, and to try and lower the likelihood that they will spread this to somebody else,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. The CDC agreed.
• You can definitely still get coronavirus even if you wear a mask. The virus can stay alive on surfaces for up to 3 days, and it’s easy to touch your face whenever you’re not wearing a mask. Also, people often adjust face masks frequently, leading to more touching of the face — a common way that coronavirus spreads.
• It’s important to wash your cloth mask after every use. Here’s how.
• Wearing cloth masks is just “an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC said. To protect yourself from getting coronavirus, it’s critical to stay 6 feet away from others, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds each time, and stop touching your face.

How many people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms? Are they still contagious?

In one study, about 4 in 5 people with confirmed coronavirus in China were likely infected by people who didn’t know they had it, according to research published in the journal “Science.”

“These findings explain the rapid geographic spread of (coronavirus) and indicate containment of this virus will be particularly challenging,” researchers wrote.

In mid-March, the CDC said almost half of the 712 people with coronavirus who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship didn’t have any symptoms when they tested positive.

And recent studies suggest 25% to 50% of coronavirus carriers don’t have symptoms.

In the US, “I think it could be as many as 1 in 3 walking around asymptomatic,” said New Jersey primary care physician Dr. Alex Salerno.

“We have tested some patients that have known exposure to COVID (coronavirus disease). They did not have a temperature. Their pulse/(oxygen) was OK.”

Aside from social distancing and frequent hand washing, Salerno said more testing of people without symptoms is essential.

When asymptomatic carriers test positive, “we isolate them, and we separate them from the people who are not positive,” Salerno said. If more asymptomatic people got tested, “we could get people back to work safely.”

But there haven’t been nearly enough tests in the US for everyone who wants one, due to shortages, delays and faulty test kits.

Why worry about coronavirus when the flu kills many more people?

The novel coronavirus is dangerous for several reasons, even if the number of deaths haven’t matched that of the flu.

The first US case of coronavirus was reported in January, and the first US death from coronavirus was reported in late February. By April 3, the US had more than 245,000 cases of coronavirus, and more than 6,000 people have died.

Since this flu season started October 1, more than 24,000 Americans have died from the flu, according to CDC estimates. Nationwide, the flu has infected at least 39 million people between October and late March.

But here are key differences when comparing the flu vs. coronavirus:

• The CDC estimates for the flu go back to October 2019. But the first US case of coronavirus didn’t emerge until several months later.
• Coronavirus is twice as contagious as the flu. Research indicates a person with the flu infects an average of 1.28 other people, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. But with coronavirus, “it’s likely between 2 and 3” other people.
• Coronavirus infections have a “very high mortality rate – one in six – among people who are over 80 and people with underlying chronic disease,” epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said.
• People with coronavirus might not get symptoms for 14 days, and some get no symptoms at all. But during that time, they’re still contagious and can infect others unknowingly.
• A vaccine is available for the flu, but no vaccine is available for coronavirus. Experts say the number of flu deaths could be drastically reduced if more people got their flu shots. But about half of Americans don’t get vaccinated, including most children who die from the flu.

Can mosquitoes transmit coronavirus?

No. “To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes,” the World Health Organization says.

“The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.”

Can high or low temperatures kill coronavirus?

“Generally coronaviruses survive for shorter periods of time at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or dryer environments. However, we don’t have direct data for this virus, nor do we have direct data for a temperature-based cutoff for inactivation at this point,” the CDC says.

“The necessary temperature would also be based on the materials of the surface, the environment, etc.”

President Donald Trump suggested this coronavirus could subside by the warmer summer months, but scientists say it’s too early to tell. And the fact that coronavirus keeps spreading in the Southern Hemisphere during its summer months suggests this strain might not succumb to warmer temperatures.

“The short answer is that while we may expect modest declines in the contagiousness of (novel coronavirus) in warmer, wetter weather and perhaps with the closing of schools … it is not reasonable to expect these declines alone to slow transmission enough to make a big dent,” wrote Dr. Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Why is everyone stocking up on bottled water? Is the water supply at risk?

No, the water supply is not at risk.

“The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water,” the CDC says. “Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

So there’s no need to hoard drinking water, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said he and his wife are still drinking tap water.

I’ve heard that home remedies can cure or prevent the virus. Is that true?

There’s no evidence from the outbreak that eating garlic, sipping water every 15 minutes or taking vitamin C will protect people from the new coronavirus. Same goes for using essential oils, colloidal silver and steroids.

Did Dean Koontz predict this outbreak in the book “The Eyes of Darkness” almost 40 years ago?

No. There are some interesting coincidences in the 1981 fiction novel, which says “a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread around the globe” around the year 2020. Modern editions of the book call the biological strain “Wuhan-400,” and the current coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China.

But there are important differences between the book and reality. The original version of the book called the strain the “Gorki-400,” in reference to a Russian locality, before it was later changed to the “Wuhan-400.” In the book, the virus was man-made, while scientists believe the novel coronavirus started in animals and jumped to humans. And in the book, the virus had a 100% mortality rate. Early estimates of the mortality rate for this coronavirus outbreak range from 2-4%.

Can heat kill the coronavirus?

Hand dryers can’t kill the virus, according to WHO. The organization also says that UV lamps shouldn’t be used to sterilize hands or other areas of the body because the radiation can irritate skin.

Drinking hot water or taking hot baths won’t kill it, either.

President Donald Trump has previously suggested that heat might kill the virus, and as a result, the current outbreak could dissipate by summer.

But public health experts say there’s no way to know this.

Can coronavirus go through skin and into the body?

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC says.

More often than not, people get coronavirus through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs,” the CDC says.

I’ve heard that black people can’t get coronavirus.

Anyone can get coronavirus.

Any person who comes into close contact with someone who is infected is at risk for contracting the virus, according to the CDC.

“Black people can get coronavirus, just like other people,” said Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an African-American family physician who has also been debunking coronavirus myths.

Caudle said she worries that some people may not take proper precautions to protect themselves against the virus because they may have heard this myth.

In Africa, the pandemic is gaining a foothold. So far, the virus hasn’t spread in Africa as quickly as it has on some other continents. But numbers there are rising fast.

I’ve heard that home remedies can cure or prevent the virus.

There’s no evidence from the outbreak that eating garlic, sipping water every 15 minutes or taking vitamin C will protect people from the new coronavirus. Same goes for using essential oils, colloidal silver and steroids.

Some posts have suggested that putting sesame oil on your body or spraying yourself with alcohol or chlorine will kill the virus. That’s also false.

Can I get coronavirus from a package sent from China?

No. “The new coronavirus cannot be transmitted through goods manufactured in China or any country reporting Covid-19 cases,” the World Health Organization says.

“Even though the new coronavirus can stay on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days (depending on the type of surface), it is very unlikely that the virus will persist on a surface after being moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures,” WHO said.

Again, the best ways to prevent transmission is to stay 6 feet away from others, thoroughly wash your hands, and disinfect surfaces with EPA-approved products.