Frequently asked questions from members, a timeline of events and updates from local, provincial and national authorities, resources - everything SUN members need to know to stay safe and informed about COVID-19 and developments that will impact them, their workplaces and their daily lives.
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What is COVID-19?
Q: What is COVID-19
A: Coronaviruses are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections.
COVID-19, short for "coronavirus disease 2019," is the official name given by the World Health Organization to the disease caused by this newly identified coronavirus.
Q: How is it spread?
A: Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze;
- close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; and,
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread is efficient when there is close contact.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: The initial symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to the seasonal flu and even the common cold so you may not know whether you are infected.
The symptoms can include:
- Difficulty breathing
For most people (approximately 80%), COVID-19 will be a mild infection.
Not everyone who is infected with COVID-19 has symptoms and some people will only exhibit very minor symptoms.
IMPORTANT: If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
Q: Who is at highest risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?
A: Older people (60+ years) and those with underlying medical problems like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart failure, or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness.
Q: How long is it between when a person is exposed to the virus and when they start showing symptoms?
A: Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known infectious period for this disease. On average, the incubation period is about five days.
Q: What is the treatment for COVID-19?
A: There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus. Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses. Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness. You'll need to stay in isolation away from other people until you have recovered.
Q: What do I do if I think I have COVID-19?
A: If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, follow the steps below to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community.
- Stay home: People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
- Avoid public areas: Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
- Avoid public transportation: Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
If you experience difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain or high fever, immediately call HealthLine 811 for assessment and direction.
Terms you'll hear in the media
These terms may regularly appear in media and other resources you access about COVID-19. Here’s what they mean:
community spread (community transmission): is said to have occurred when people have been infected without any knowledge of contact with someone who has the same infection
contact tracing: a process that begins with identifying everyone a person diagnosed with a given illness (in this case COVID-19) has been in contact with since they became contagious. The contacts are notified that they are at risk, and may include those who share the person's home, as well as people who were in the same place around the same time as the person with COVID-19 — a school, office, restaurant, or doctor's office, for example. Contacts may be quarantined or asked to isolate themselves if they start to experience symptoms, and are more likely to be tested for coronavirus if they begin to experience symptoms.
containment: refers to limiting the spread of an illness. Because no vaccines exist to prevent COVID-19 and no specific therapies exist to treat it, containment is done using public health interventions. These may include identifying and isolating those who are ill, and tracking down anyone they have had contact with and possibly placing them under quarantine.
epidemic: a disease outbreak in a community or region
flattening the curve: refers to the epidemic curve, a statistical chart used to visualize the number of new cases over a given period of time during a disease outbreak. Flattening the curve is shorthand for implementing mitigation strategies to slow things down, so that fewer new cases develop over a longer period of time. This increases the chances that hospitals and other healthcare facilities will be equipped to handle any influx of patients.
incubation period: the period of time between exposure to an infection and when symptoms begin
isolation: the separation of people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick
mitigation: refers to steps taken to limit the impact of an illness. Because no vaccines exist to prevent COVID-19 and no specific therapies exist to treat it, mitigation strategies may include frequent and thorough handwashing, not touching your face, staying away from people who are sick, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects at home, in schools, at work, and in other settings.
pandemic: a disease outbreak affecting large populations or a whole region, country, or continent
presumptive positive test result: a positive test for the virus that causes COVID-19, performed by a local or state health laboratory, is considered "presumptive" until the result is confirmed by the CDC. While awaiting confirmation, people with a presumptive positive test result will be considered to be infected.
quarantine: separates and restricts the movement of people who have a contagious disease, have symptoms that are consistent with the disease, or were exposed to a contagious disease, to see if they become sick
SARS-CoV-2: short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, SARS-CoV-2 is the official name for the virus responsible for COVID-19.
social distancing: refers to actions taken to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. For an individual, it refers to maintaining enough distance between yourself and another person to reduce the risk of breathing in droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In a community, social distancing measures may include limiting or cancelling large gatherings of people.
virus: a virus is the smallest of infectious microbes, smaller than bacteria or fungi. A virus consists of a small piece of genetic material (DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protein shell. Viruses cannot survive without a living cell in which to reproduce. Once a virus enters a living cell (the host cell) and takes over a cell's inner workings, the cell cannot carry out its normal life-sustaining tasks. The host cell becomes a virus manufacturing plant, making viral parts that then reassemble into whole viruses and go on to infect other cells. Eventually, the host cell dies.