There is a wealth of information to navigate in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. New research continues to develop; clinical trials of candidate vaccines have begun, and a joint study including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed more about the transmission of the virus.
In a time of uncertainty, answers to common questions can provide insights on dealing with the virus. These are some of those COVID-19 questions, answered.
How does social distancing work?
The CDC maintains that the most effective way to prevent illness with COVID-19 is to prevent being exposed to the virus. Social distancing, also being called physical distancing, centers around keeping a distance of six feet from others and avoiding group gatherings.
Social distancing aids in “flattening” the epidemic curve, a visual tool used to illustrate a disease outbreak. By slowing and reducing the peak of an outbreak, healthcare services have more time to treat those infected and increase capacity, according to a report published in the medical journal The Lancet. In the long term, the report says, this provides more time for the development of vaccines and new treatments.
Can the virus survive on surfaces and/or in the air?
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine states that the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, on copper for up to four hours, cardboard for 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel for up to two to three days.
The study comes from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Princeton University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The same researchers indicate that in real-world conditions, the aerosol duration would likely be under 30 minutes.
While the World Health Organization states that it is possible to inhale the virus through close contact with a carrier, the organization maintains that the virus is not airborne, as the infectious droplets are too heavy to remain suspended in the air.
When will there be a vaccine?
The WHO maintains that a vaccine will not be available for mass production before mid-2021.
About 35 companies and academic institutions are working on a vaccine, ABC reports.
Why will it take that long to develop a vaccine?
Clinical development of a vaccine takes place in three phases, according to the CDC. In the first phase, the vaccine is given to a small number of people. The first injections of a candidate vaccine were administered to volunteers at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle on Mar. 16.
A 2017 report in the Journal of Archives in Military Medicine says that traditional vaccine development can take up to 16 years. Newer approaches, such as mRNA vaccines, are putting COVID-19 vaccine development on the fast track, according to a Mar. 16 publication from the National Institutes of Health.
These messenger RNA vaccines don’t contain a form of the actual virus. Rather, they instruct the body to make the same proteins found on the outside of a virus. This primes the immune system to recognize those proteins and respond if the actual virus enters the body, according to the NIH.
A vaccine that passes through phase one will then have to be given to a larger number of people with similar characteristics to the intended recipients of the vaccine in phase two. It isn’t until phase three that the vaccine, while still being tested for effectiveness and safety, is given to thousands of individuals.
What other protection and treatments are available?
Vanderbilt University Medical Center is one institute working on developing antibody-based countermeasures. These injections are not the same as vaccines; the protection lasts for several months, rather than several years like vaccines. It involves sampling antibodies from a COVID-19 patient, and using those as a blueprint to mass produce antibodies that can boost the immunity of people who need immediate protection like doctors, healthcare staff and family members of infected patients.
How do I find accurate information on the virus?
Sources for up-to-date information on the virus include:
The CDC at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.
Florida Department of Health: https://floridahealthcovid19.gov
The Florida Dept. of Health is also reachable through its COVID-19 Call Center: (866) 779-612 and by email at COVIDemail@example.com
Florida Tech: Updates are posted at https://www.fit.edu/coronavirus.
Holzer Health Center: Appointments are now required, and can be made at (321) 674-8078.
For Employers and Workers: The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a COVID-19 resource page at https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus.