PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/CNN) -- There's quite a bit of confusion surrounding the most recent strain of the coronavirus. Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions.

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. (Source: AZ Dept. of Health)

What are the symptoms?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Complications include secondary bacterial pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death. (Source: AZ Dept. of Health)

What is the incubation period?

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 2-14 days, most commonly around five days. (Source: CDC)

How does it spread?

The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The transfer of droplets mainly happens from person-to-person (within about 6 feet). 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. (Source: CDC)

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. (Source: AZ Dept. of Health)

Can I catch coronavirus through food?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom. (Source: CDC)

How long can the virus survive on surfaces?

A recent study found that COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for variable periods of time, depending on the type of surface. The survival time on surfaces ranged from four hours (copper) to three days (plastic and stainless steel).

To kill the virus on surfaces, use a disinfectant that has been shown to be effective against SARS-CoV-2. A list of approved disinfectants against SARS-CoV-2 can be found on the EPA website. Be sure to clean frequently touched surfaces and objects often, such as counters, tabletops, door knobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, and bedside tables.  (Source: AZ Dept. of Health)

Can I catch it from my pet?

Some coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are examples of diseases caused by coronaviruses that originated in animals and spread to people. This is what is suspected to have happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19. However, the CDC does not know the exact source of this virus. Public health officials are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. (Source: CDC)

Can I spread COVID-19 to my pets?

CDC is aware of a very small number of pets, including dogs and cats, outside the United States reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 after close contact with people with COVID-19. CDC has not received any reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. To date, there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus to people.

The first case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus. This investigation is ongoing.

How many people are getting seriously ill from COVID-19?

Among 508 (12%) patients known to have been hospitalized, 9% were aged ≥85 years, 36% were aged 65–84 years, 17% were aged 55–64 years, 18% were 45–54 years, and 20% were aged 20–44 years. Less than 1% of hospitalizations were among persons aged ≤19 years (Figure 2). The percentage of persons hospitalized increased with age, from 2%–3% among persons aged ≤19 years, to ≥31% among adults aged ≥85 years. (Source: CDC)

What is the death rate?

This first preliminary description of outcomes among patients with COVID-19 in the United States indicates that fatality was highest in persons aged ≥85, ranging from 10% to 27%, followed by 3% to 11% among persons aged 65–84 years, 1% to 3% among persons aged 55-64 years, <1% among persons aged 20–54 years, and no fatalities among persons aged ≤19 years. (Source: CDC)

What are the possible complications?

Complications include secondary bacterial pneumonia, respiratory failure and death. (Source: AZ Dept. of Health)

Who is most vulnerable?

Those at higher risk for serious illness include older adults, and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. (Source: AZ Dept. of Health)

What exactly does 'older' adults mean?

The CDC says "older adults" and people with serious chronic medical conditions "are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness." Anyone over 60 and those with underlying health problems should try to avoid places with large crowds -- such as movie theaters, busy malls and even religious services, infectious disease experts say. (Source: CDC)

What can I do to prevent getting COVID-19?

Follow basic hygiene recommendations. (Source: CDC)

  • Stay home if possible
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly

  • Maintain at least 6 feet distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

  • Cover mouth and nose with your bent elbow when you sneeze

  • Stay at home if you're sick

  • Clean surfaces with disinfectant wipes. The virus droplets can live anywhere from hours to days on surfaces

Which sanitizers are best?

Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, says an alcohol-based sanitizer is the best. Arizona's Family has a recipe if you would like to make your own.

Treatment, Vaccines, and Medications

There is no current vaccine.  Furthermore, there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions. The World Health Organization says there are more than 20 vaccines are currently in development for COVID-19.

Should I get the flu vaccine?

The Arizona State Health Department encourages everyone to get a flu shot. Dr. Christ says the coronavirus is spread exactly like flu. "Get vaccinated for flu, because you don't want both of those diseases."

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

No. Public health does not recommend that the general public who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from becoming sick.

Additionally, the use of facemasks is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility). (Source: AZ Dept. of Health)

When should I contact my doctor?

If you are experiencing symptoms, you should first call your healthcare provider. Give them your symptoms. Your healthcare provider will then direct you on how to get treatment and if necessary, tested. This guidance comes from Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. Not everyone who is exhibiting symptoms will get tested. At this point, they simply do not have enough kits to test everyone.

What is the process for COVID-19 testing in Arizona?

You must first call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms. They will then instruct you as to what to do next. There are drive-thru testing sites in Arizona, but you have to have a doctor's order to get tested.

Will the heat in Arizona help to contain the spread of COVID-19?

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 necessary temperature would also be based on the materials of the surface, the environment, etc. (Source: CDC)

What if I have travel plans?

Right now, people are encouraged to stay home and not travel. If you plan on traveling, always check travel advisories on the CDC website or the Department of State's website.

Is it safe to fly on a plane?

Again, you are encouraged not to travel at this time. It's not the cabin air you need to worry about. Most viruses don't spread easily on airplanes because of how the air circulates and is filtered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The biggest concern you should be worried about is keeping your hands clean. Airport handrails, door handles and airplane lavatory levers are notoriously dirty.

Should I be worried about packages shipped from infected regions?

Due to poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. (Source: CDC)

For more information on coronavirus, go to the Arizona Department of Health Services website

Sources: CNN, World Health Organization; Centers for Disease Control; Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services


Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Recommended for you