Staying on top of the coronavirus basics

By Gordon Lambie

In the waves of news that come each day, it can be easy to lose track of key information about health and wellbeing. Here are the basics regarding COVID-19, as outlined by the Quebec and Canadian governments.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms can be mild (similar to a cold) or more severe (such as those associated with pneumonia and respiratory or kidney failure). The people most at risk of complications are those with a weakened immune system, a chronic disease, and older people, but anyone can catch and transmit the illness.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 and most people with COVID-19 will recover on their own.
Thorough hand washing, with soap and particular attention paid to the areas between and at the tips of fingers, thumbs, and wrists, for a duration of at least 20 seconds, is strongly encouraged alongside steps like coughing or sneezing into a sleeve. People are also discouraged from touching their faces. Hand sanitizer is a good option when out in public, although it has proven to be in short supply.
Another common prevention measure is what has become known as “social distancing.” Social distancing measures encourage the population to maintain a distance of at least six feet or about two metres between themselves and other people. This is the idea behind the wave of cancellations that have swept the nation. The idea here is that the coronavirus cannot live as long outside the body, so limiting the amount of bodies an infected person has access to limits the spread of the disease.
This is also the reason that self-isolation for 14 days is recommended for anyone returning from abroad. Returning travellers must be vigilant and monitor themselves for symptoms. This measure is now mandatory for all public service employees and health care, education and daycare workers, both private and public, returning from abroad. Public sector employees will continue their treatment during the isolation period.
Self-isolation means staying at home and not receiving any visitors. It does not mean going to work. It does not mean riding the bus.
Since last week, Quebec has shifted its recommendation of who to call if concerned about the coronavirus from the usual infosante 811 line to 1-877-644-4545. Anyone who has a cough or fever is encouraged to call this line and wait for a nurse to answer. Do not go to the doctor yourself. Visit the emergency room only if you have difficulty breathing, but call the number first.
There is no evidence that it is helpful for asymptomatic people to wear face masks. The use of a mask by a healthy person who is providing direct care for a person with COVID-19 should always be combined with eye protection and gloves.
More information on the virus and ways to protect against its spread can be found at and

Published in the Tuesday, March 17 edition of The Record.

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