Coronavirus Facts, Symptoms and a Future Vaccine

This coronavirus information page will be updated regularly.

What are the primary symptoms of this new coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Fever, cough, and trouble breathing/shortness of breath are the primary symptoms of COVID-19. The U.S. CDC and World Health Orginization (WHO) offer the following guidance in distinguishing COVID-19 from the flu and the common cold:

How long can this coronavirus survive in the air and on surfaces?

Recent studies indicate the new coronavirus can survive for a few hours in the air, and up to three days on surfaces. This means virus particles left in the air from coughing can be infectious for a few hours, and coronavirus placed on surfaces (hand-to-surface touching) can survive for at least a day or more.

Good ventilation will help reduce the risk of airborne coronavirus.

The real risk is picking up coronavirus from surfaces. Everyone should get into the practice of sanitizing common surfaces and objects every day that are touched frequently (door knobs, counter tops, mobile phones, remotes, etc).

Who is most at risk from COVID-19?

People over the age of 60, and people with chronic health conditions like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes carry the greatest risk.

The case fatality rate (CFR) for COVID-19 climbs rapidly in older age groups. This coronavirus medical data from Italy can serve as a useful predictive model for what can happen in North America. For comparison, the flu CFR is 0.1%. This new coronavirus is much more deadly overall, with a 6.2% CFR in Italy as of March 13:

Italian COVID-19 Case Fatality Rate March 13, 2020

There are many factors that can raise or lower the case fatality rate, including how prepared hospitals are for the influx of sick coronavirus patients.

Risk also increases for people of all ages who have certain chronic health conditions:

Bottom line: people over 60 years of age and people with the above health conditions are at significant risk.

Can hospitals be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients?

Yes, hospitals and the entire medical system can get overwhelmed from a sudden, large increase in coronavirus patients. Social distancing (avoiding crowds, isolating if you are feeling sick, public health measures to close schools, etc) can help reduce the risk of crashing the health care system.

Can social distancing during pandemics slow the rate of virus spread through populations?

Yes, practical social distancing measures are a proven method to flatten the curve of pandemics. The goal is to slow down the rate of new infections so that the health care system can handle patient load:

Social distancing measures includes limiting or banning large crowd events (concerts, sports events), temporarily closing schools, and in very serious situations closing all bars, restaurants, shops and stores, excepting groceries and pharmacies. Local authorities may also issue curfews, which limit the ability for people to leave their homes.

When will there be a proven vaccine for this novel coronavirus?

It will likely take 12-36 months to deploy an effective vaccine for COVID-19. The Zika vaccine development timeline is instructional — it took three years to develop a safe and effective Zika vaccine for clinical trials, which means it still isn’t generally available:

Vaccine development technology is now faster than it was even a few years ago, and given the urgency surrounding this novel coronavirus, a speedy vaccine development program is ongoing.

Bottom line: A proven COVID-19 vaccine is at least a year away (2021), and possibly longer.

In the meantime, learn and practice these new habits every day:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water (20 seconds) several times/day, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.
  • Sanitize every day objects that you touch (doorknobs, keys, phones, counters, etc.)  Do this once/day.
  • Stop touching your face!!  (Very hard to do, but keep practicing.)
  • Follow social distancing rules set by local health authorities.