March 24, 2020

Mayo Clinic scientists and doctors give advise, updates on COVID-19 pandemic

By Susan Murphy

By Mayo Clinic News Network

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers are providing daily updates and information to help keep people healthy and safe.

What happens to your body when you have COVID-19?

As the number of cases of COVID-19 rises, experts continue to learn more about the disease. They know that symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. But what does the virus do inside your body to cause those symptoms?

Dr. Neal Patel, a Mayo Clinic pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist, says that like most viruses, the virus that causes COVID-19 enters the body when you breathe it in through the mouth or nose. It also may enter through the eyes.

"Once it enters into the body, many different things happen," says Dr. Patel. "Initially, the virus can cause some damage locally where it enters. Then it moves further into the respiratory system."  Read more.

COVID-19: Tips for Mindfulness & Coping with Anxiety

Amid ever-changing information around the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety.

"Anxiety is not right, and it is not wrong. It is just part of the human experience," says Kristin Lothman, a mind-body counselor with Mayo Clinic's Department of Integrative Medicine and Health. "Healthy anxiety calls us into action to be safe, to take care of the people that we love and to arrive at the present moment experience with resilience."

"There are many strategies to manage anxiety," Lothman says. "I recommend developing a self-care practice. Elements of that could include journaling, exercise, yoga, meditation and prayer." Read more.

Importance of home exercise while being isolated

As social distancing becomes the norm due to COVID-19, it's important to find new ways to remain active, as exercise is important.

"We need fitness for better overall health but in particular to keep our stress level down, especially now. We don't want our muscles to become sedentary since we're staying at home," says Dr. Sunni Alessandria, a Mayo Clinic physical therapist.

Alessandria says that while items such as exercise bands, a fitness ball or weights are useful, you don't need special equipment to stay active at home.

"You can use basic things you can find at your home, including stairs, a wall, a chair ― even things from your pantry like a can of soup or two-pound bag of flour," she says. "If you are outside, a curb or step will work well, too."

Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert, answers COVID-19 questions

The information about the COVID-19 pandemic changes rapidly, and it's hard to stay up to date with the latest information. On today's Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Gregory Poland, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases expert and head of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, answers COVID-19 questions.

Dr. Poland discusses preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus, what to do if you do get sick, and the potential for effective treatments and a vaccine.

Click the player below:

10 steps from Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control team to minimize the spread of COVID-19

There are several common-sense things you can do to protect yourself, and help prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 to your family. Consider these 10 steps from Mayo Clinic's Infection Prevention and Control team:

  1. Pause for a moment and collect your thoughts. Pandemics can be overwhelming, and remaining as calm as possible can help.
  2. Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer. Both are effective. This is particularly important when coming home from outside, before meals and after using the restroom.
  3. At the beginning of the day and when you get home, disinfect items that are frequently touched by yourself or others. Such items could include cellphones and cellphone cases, door handles and keyboards. Regular household disinfectants are effective. Disinfecting surfaces and items, and cleaning your hands will reduce transmission.
  4. It is reasonable to change out of your work clothes before or when you get home. Launder frequently with normal detergent. No extra laundering or special handling is needed. Read more.

Your questions answered

How does the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 enter the body?

"COVID-19 disease is spread through respiratory droplets. So what that means is that if someone with the infection coughs or sneezes, they generate droplets. These are generally large droplets so they can spread about 3-6 feet from the person that generates them. That's pretty close contact that's required. If those droplets land on a surface and you touch that surface and  then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, then you are at risk of becoming infected as well," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.*

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Why are some cases worse than others?

"Coronaviruses, including COVID-19, can create a spectrum of illness, and, so, some people will be very mildly affected and some people can have more severe disease," says Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D., M.P.H., an infectious disease specialist. "So the severity of illness can range from having a cold or a flu-type illness all the way to needing to be hospitalized or be in an intensive care unit."

Will the COVID-19 pandemic end? Is it seasonal?

"We don't know yet. One possibility is that this would become what's called an endemic community transmissible disease," says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research group. "SARS did not go that way. SARS disappeared and we don't know exactly why.  MERS is one where there continues to be zoonotic transmission and small outbreaks here and there. What this one will do, we don't know. I think what we can say is that coronaviruses are here to stay. We've had three novel coronaviruses in the last 18 years. It will happen again."

What groups of people are at greatest risk from COVID-19?

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults, according to the World Health Organization. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Will warmer temperatures affect how COVID-19 spreads?

"We know that for Influenza, cases dwindle down in the spring and summer seasons. However, no one can say for sure how it will affect COVID-19. "At this point, we don't know enough about this virus to understand how it's going to behave over time," says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.

Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19.
For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

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