COVID19 Frequently Asked Questions
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by a type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which is a general name of a family of illness-causing viruses. These are common viruses that typically cause upper respiratory symptoms, often presenting as cold symptoms in children. The coronavirus disease may be worse in vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with suppressed immune symptoms. Coronaviruses have circulated among us for decades. Severe infections in recent years by corona members included more epidemics by SARS and MERS. SARS-CoV-2 is a new type of this common virus; it is significantly more contagious and causes more severe disease than other members of this family.
Can you explain the term ‘Flattening the Curve’?
‘Flattening the Curve’ means we want to spread out the number of people who become so sick that they need hospitalization, so we don’t strain limited, life-saving resources (such as intensive care units or ventilators) with large spikes of people getting sick all at once. It also buys time for scientists to develop treatments.
How quickly is COVID-19 spreading?
Nationally, the number of cases is doubling roughly every three days. However, it is important to note that we do not really know how many people are actually infected because so few people have been tested, and many may carry the virus without showing any symptoms.
For information specific to Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health page.
For national information, visit the CDC page.
What can we expect from this virus?
The virus will most likely infect 70 – 75 % of the population, which is when enough people will develop a natural immunity to the virus that it starts to slow down. Until then we need to maintain social distancing measures in order to “flatten the curve.”
Some people will experience mild symptoms that don’t require hospitalization. In others, the COVID-19 disease is life-threatening. But people can also be infected and have no symptoms. In those cases, even though they aren’t aware that they are carrying the virus, they can infect other people who, in turn, could get very sick or die. That is why people are being asked to isolate themselves.
Are infection rates the same among men and women?
Early data from China suggest that males and females have the same rate of infection, but infection might be more severe in males. While the cause is not known, this may be related more common risk conditions in males, such as smoking or heart disease. It may be also related to some greater activity of immune system components in females, or, alternatively, related to differences in sex hormones between males and females.
If you get COVID-19, can you get it again?
This is unknown right now, but inferring from other coronaviruses, infection will confer sustained immunity.
With other known coronaviruses people experienced as children, there can be some decay in immunity over time, which means older adults can become infected again.
Additional Resources and Links
Please visit our clinical partner, UPMC for further information on COVID-19.