Coronavirus: You Ask, We Answer

Experts respond to WSJ readers’ questions

Guidelines remain: Avoid nonessential travel, restaurants and gatherings of more than 10 people.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

28365365体育投注The Wall Street Journal has been taking questions from readers about the novel coronavirus. Here, we compile answers to your questions based on interviews with experts.

Q: Should I be wearing a mask?

A: On April 3, the Trump administration recommended that Americans wear basic cloth or fabric face masks when in public to reduce transmission. The new recommendation aims to reduce the risk that people who are infected but asymptomatic will spread the virus. Many experts say there’s no harm in wearing a mask; even if the benefit is modest, it is worth doing. “We’re in a situation where any little bit makes a difference,” says Don Milton, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park, Md.

Q: If you contracted the virus and survived, can you catch it a second time?

A: It isn’t yet known. Sometimes a person is immune to a disease after an infection but not always. Blood tests are being developed and licensed that reveal how many antibodies are present in people who have recovered. These tests will shed some light on the prospects for immunity.

Q: Should we be wiping our groceries down after we get back from the grocery store?

A: Doctors say getting the virus through the ingestion of contaminated food seems unlikely, although scientists are still studying the virus. Randy Worobo, a professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, says instead of being preoccupied with wiping down packaging28365365体育投注 and containers, focus on washing your hands. “It’s much better to treat your hands, wash your hands, rather than dealing with all the surfaces,” says Dr. Worobo.

Q: What should we do about routine dentist appointments?

A: In a statement issued March 16, the American Dental Association (ADA) called on dentists nationwide to postpone nonurgent dental procedures for three weeks to help slow the spread of Covid-19. That time frame may be extended. The that shows what is considered a dental emergency and what can be rescheduled for a later time.

Q: Is there any information on the number of people who have had Covid-19 and are no longer contagious?

A: There are about one million confirmed cases world-wide as of April 2, from Johns Hopkins University. Of those confirmed cases, more than 200,000 people have recovered. The vast majority of recoveries are in China. Deaths from the novel coronavirus have topped 50,000 globally. The U.S. currently has more than 230,000 confirmed cases and has reported more than 5,500 deaths. Recovery data in the U.S. is still being compiled but is nearing 10,000.

Q: I am 70 years old, live alone and have no nearby family or friends. How will I know the difference between a severe cold/flu and Covid-19 before it is too late to drive myself to the doctor?

A: If you feel ill, first call your doctor before going in. If you don’t have your own doctor, consider calling a telehealth provider.

The primary symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC has set up a that can help you better understand symptoms you may be experiencing.

If you are feeling anxiety around the coronavirus or about getting sick, call the federal government’s Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

Q: Is it safe to eat food taken out from restaurants?

A: The main risk from ordering food and groceries28365365体育投注 is that you could catch the virus from an infected delivery person, if he sneezes or coughs on you. That is because the virus spreads mostly by person-to-person contact. It is less likely, although still possible, to get the virus from touching contaminated packaging. There may also be a small risk from touching raw food that has the virus on it and then touching your face. But there appears to be no risk of contracting the virus by eating it in cooked food, experts say.

28365365体育投注Doctors say ordering food is generally safer than going to a grocery store or a restaurant, because you come into contact with fewer people.

Q: I’m a college student going home for spring break. My friends and I want to hang out with each other. What can we do to hang out in a group, but prevent spreading coronavirus?

A: Young people are being advised to follow the same guidelines as older folks: Avoid nonessential travel, restaurants and gatherings of more than 10 people. Epidemiologists are growing concerned that pushback by younger generations against these social-distancing measures could undo all efforts to slow the spread of the virus28365365体育投注. Children and young adults are no less likely than older people to get infected and transmit the virus.

Q: What if someone in my office is diagnosed? Do I have to quarantine? Can I go back to work?

A: Employers are within their rights to ask employees to work remotely, as long as they are not applying a policy in a way that could be deemed discriminatory, says Angela B. Cornell, a clinical professor at Cornell Law School and director of the school’s Labor Law Clinic. While your boss can ask you not to come into the office, they can’t bar you from going to other places or, say, hopping on the subway. That said, your employer can offer recommendations on how far to venture from home, says Heather Bussing, an employment lawyer in Sonoma County, Calif., with Rybicki & Associates PC.

Q: What if my employer wants me to come in but I’m afraid I’ll catch the virus?

A: Employers generally don’t have an obligation to allow telecommuting, says Mitch Boyarsky, a labor and employment lawyer with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. An exception is an employee who qualifies under the Americans With Disabilities Act to work remotely to accommodate a disability. Another might be if the government is ordering a quarantine, other lawyers say. Then an employer could have more of a burden to allow remote work.

Q: How long will this virus last and remain a potential threat? Will it always be a part of our environment, or will it run its course and completely disappear?

A: Most forecasters are reluctant to predict—at least publicly—how this will play out. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the outbreak is still in the first inning. It isn’t yet clear how many people have the disease, how quickly it is spreading or even how deadly it is.

Coronaviruses in general aren’t as seasonal as the flu. So although they are less prevalent in the spring and summer, they have more of a presence than influenza. A different coronavirus strain called SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) started in November 2002 and was gone by the summer of 2003, notes Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minn. But that didn’t happen with the MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) strain.

Covid-19—the illness caused by the new coronavirus—has circulated in some areas with warmer climates, such as Hong Kong and Singapore. But in general there have been relatively few cases in warmer climates.

Q: I would like to know what to have on hand—food, water, etc.—in case we need to be under quarantine, and how long that could be. Weeks? Months?

A: If you are told to self-isolate, you will need to stay at home and avoid contact with others for 14 days. Stock up on some supplies in case you have to remain home28365365体育投注, infectious-disease experts say. To avoid cleaning out store shelves, just buy a few extras on your regular orders or trips to the store. Items to consider include shelf-stable foods like cans of beans, packages of rice and pasta, and beverages; pain relievers and other common medications; extra prescription medications; and hygiene and cleaning products.

Q: Is Covid-19 more or less contagious than the flu or other viral respiratory diseases?

A: Covid-19 appears to be more contagious. The measure used by health professionals is R0—pronounced “R naught.” R0 is an estimate of how many healthy people one contagious person will infect. The R0 for Covid-19 is estimated to be 2.6. “That’s a lot,” says William Schaffner, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee.

In comparison, for influenza the figure is somewhere around 1.2 to 1.8, says Dr. Poland.

Q: How long do antibacterials such as Purell last when applied, and are they effective?

A: Experts say alcohol-based sanitizers last only a minute or two and must be reapplied when contamination reoccurs. In addition, hand sanitizers aren’t as effective as soap and water at removing certain kinds of germs, says the .

28365365体育投注The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water when it is available and using a hand sanitizer only when soap and water isn’t an option. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can deactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, people might not use a large enough quantity of the sanitizer or might wipe it off before it has dried. When using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount) and rub it all over the surfaces of your hands until they are dry.

Q: What percentage of U.S. hospitals are equipped to test for the coronavirus?

A: The CDC is updating each day with information about where people can be tested for the virus. As of April 1, 95 state and local public health labs in 50 states and the District of Columbia had been verified and are currently using Covid-19 diagnostic tests. Some hospitals and public-health laboratories are getting test kits that allow analysis closer to the point of care, offering results in hours. Others still must send specimens to commercial labs for analysis, which can mean a wait of three to four days.

Q: How safe are swimming pools and hot tubs?

A:28365365体育投注 Currently, the virus can be transmitted to humans through pools or hot tubs, according to the CDC. Proper maintenance and disinfection (through the use of chlorine and bromine) should eliminate the virus that causes Covid-19.

Q: Does having a pneumonia shot prevent or help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus?

A: The pneumonia vaccine doesn’t protect you from the coronavirus but will lower your risk of bacterial pneumonia, or lung infection, according to the . The center advises people to get the pneumonia vaccine if they are eligible. This vaccine is recommended for adults older than 65, those between the age of 2 to 64 with certain medical conditions, and adults 19 to 64 years old who smoke cigarettes.

Q: What should I do if I fly to a destination in the U.S. (to a place where I don’t have any connections) and I feel I have developed symptoms consistent with the coronavirus?

A: seeking care. If you are traveling and away from your health-care provider, call a health clinic or emergency room before going in person. The CDC has listed 282 on its website. Many states have also established hotline numbers where you can get more information.

Q: Can my pet get sick if I had this virus? Can I get the virus from my pet?

A: Currently, there is no evidence that pets can be infected with the novel coronavirus, according to the . A report from Hong Kong emerged in late February that a dog belonging to an infected patient had returned a “weak positive” test for the virus. However, authorities at the couldn’t determine how the dog contracted it. Experts have urged pet owners to maintain good hygiene, such as washing hands, and to refrain from kissing their pets.

Q: How do I know if I have coronavirus?

A: The telltale sign is difficulty breathing or shortness of breath combined with a high fever, says Wilbur Chen, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. A high fever would be 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

28365365体育投注The virus infects the lower respiratory tract. Patients initially develop a fever, cough and aches, and can progress to shortness of breath and complications from pneumonia, according to case reports. They might develop nausea, with vomiting and diarrhea. Some become only mildly ill or are infected but don’t get sick. Others are mildly ill for a few days, then rapidly develop more severe symptoms of pneumonia.

Q: How does the mortality rate of coronavirus compare with the flu?

A: Mortality rate estimates for the new coronavirus28365365体育投注 are often cited as about 2%, though estimates have ranged from 1.4% to 3.4%. In comparison, the mortality rate for severe seasonal influenza is much lower, at 0.1%.

28365365体育投注Once the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is known, the real fatality rate for new coronavirus might be less than 1%, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wrote in a New England Journal of Medicine article.

28365365体育投注The statistics fluctuate depending on the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, which change daily. So the exact rate won’t be known until experts know the true denominator, which is the total number of people infected, including those who are asymptomatic or never got tested.

Q: What, if any, precautions should be taken by pregnant women?

A: Experts say pregnant women fall into the vulnerable category of people more likely to get seriously ill with the new virus. Although the precautions are the same, pregnant women need to be especially vigilant. Avoid large public gatherings if you’re in an area with new coronavirus cases, says Dr. Poland of the Mayo Clinic. “The precautions should be heightened,” he says.

Cameron Wolfe, associate professor of medicine at Duke University Health System’s division of infectious diseases, recommends making sure you have an influenza shot if you are pregnant and asking whether your doctor has contingency plans if new coronavirus cases escalate, such as conducting a virtual visit through telemedicine when possible.

Q: How should I treat packages? Is it possible to transmit the virus through the mail?

A: The CDC has stated there is likely very low risk28365365体育投注 that the virus can be spread from imported products or packaging, because of poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces.

Q: How can I best protect myself?

A: David Eisenman, director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, says that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds each time. Wash them regularly when you are at the office, when you come home, before you eat and other times that you are touching surfaces. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

28365365体育投注Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth—viruses can enter your body that way. Wipe down objects and surfaces frequently with household cleaner, which will kill the virus. Maintain a distance from people who are sick.

And get a flu shot if you haven’t already. “It prevents you from getting an illness that you think is coronavirus, because they can act very similarly,” Dr. Eisenman said.

Q: What are the “underlying health conditions” that can put a person at greater risk of death from the coronavirus?

A: Adults of all ages have been infected by the coronavirus, but the risk is highest for older people and those with underlying health conditions28365365体育投注. People with diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, including respiratory illnesses, as well as smokers, are at increased risk of severe illness. Most of the 1,023 people whose deaths were included in a study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention were age 60 or older, and/or had other illnesses.

Public-health experts advise staying calm and following the same precautions recommended for preventing flu or any other respiratory virus. Stick with the basics: Wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and stay at home from work or school when you’re sick.

Q: Is taking common cold remedies a good practice? For example, DayQuil?

A: Experts say this is helpful for controlling symptoms, which is the mainstay of treating the new coronavirus. But it isn’t a cure and won’t prevent you from infecting others.

Related Video

For public health officials, strategies to contain the novel coronavirus inside the U.S. will likely shift as the number of new cases and deaths increase. WSJ’s Brianna Abbott explains several challenges the country faces. Photo: David Ryder/Reuters
Q: If you touch a hard surface that has the virus on it, and then touch food and eat it, can you expose yourself to it?

A: The virus transmits through “respiratory droplets” when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes, according to the WHO. The droplets can settle on nearby surfaces, where they can survive for a period, though it isn’t known for how long. A person can become infected by touching a contaminated surface, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

28365365体育投注Dr. Poland says if it is a surface exposed to sunlight outside, the virus likely lives for only a few minutes or up to an hour. But if it is indoors and a dry environment, germs can live up to a day or two.

If someone at home is sick, the CDC recommends cleaning surfaces that are touched frequently—such as doorknobs and countertops—every day. Regular household disinfectant wipes and cleaners should suffice. Anything with alcohol or bleach works.

Q: What precautions would you recommend taking on an airplane?

A: The WHO advises that travelers exercise the same precautions they would follow to avoid catching any bug: Keep hands clean and use antiseptic wipes on any surfaces, such as tray tables and armrests28365365体育投注, where germs can linger. Contrary to popular belief, cabin air is less of a concern; virtually all international jetliners are equipped with high-efficiency particulate air filters, similar to those used in hospital operating rooms. Cabin air is refreshed every two to three minutes.

By submitting your response to this questionnaire, you are indicating you are willing to be contacted by a reporter for The Wall Street Journal to discuss your answers further. Your identity, including your name, will be kept confidential unless a reporter contacts you and you allow your name to be used. Your answers (not including name and email) have the potential to be used in future news stories in combination with other participants even if a WSJ reporter has not contacted you.

28365365体育投注Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8