Novel Coronavirus COVID-19
 

Information about COVID-19 and Preventing Transmission


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What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a virus in the coronavirus family. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness, but the virus can affect different people in different ways. Some will become seriously ill and require medical care.




What are COVID-19 Symptoms?

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Some of the more commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Fever/chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat/hoarse voice
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Skin rash of unknown cause
  • Vomiting, diarrhea for more than 24 hours
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Poor feeding in an infant

While many people will develop only mild symptoms, some groups appear to be more vulnerable to COVID-19. Those at higher risk are more likely to develop more serious conditions such as pneumonia, acute respiratory failure and kidney failure, leading to hospitalization or even fatal outcomes.

Factors that may put you at higher risk of developing severe outcomes from COVID-19 include:

  • if you are not fully vaccinated or boosted,
  • your age - risk increases with age,
  • chronic medical conditions,
  • immunocompromising conditions, due to a medical condition or treatment,
  • obesity,
  • smoking, or
  • pregnancy.

Some populations are also at overall risk of severe outcomes, which may be related to where they live or work, such as in congregate or crowded settings, and how they access care. This includes people with disabilities, and people who are Indigenous or Black or other people of colour.




Long COVID

Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, but some people who have had COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID-19 condition (PCC) or long COVID. People with PCC can have a wide range of symptoms, which may include general symptoms like fatigue, respiratory and heart symptoms, neurological symptoms, or digestive symptoms. More information and resources are available at Long COVID - Shared Health (sharedhealthmb.ca)

If you or the person you are caring for is experiencing long COVID, talk to your health care provider or call Health Links - Info SantÚ at 204-788-8200 in Winnipeg or toll-free 1-888-315-9257.




How is COVID-19 Spread?

Respiratory infections, such as the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and aerosols produced when an infected person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. The virus can enter your body if droplets or aerosols get into your throat, nose, or eyes. You can transmit COVID-19 before you start showing symptoms or if you are infected but never develop symptoms.

Smaller droplets or aerosols can collect in enclosed spaces, particularly when more people share a crowded space, spend prolonged time together, or exercise, sing, shout, or speak loudly. Opening windows or increasing fresh air intake with mechanical ventilation are important protective measures that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 may also spread by touching something that has the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands. Even though COVID-19 can survive for periods of time on different surfaces, infection from contact with contaminated surfaces appears to be rare. The most common type of spread is through contact with the respiratory droplets or aerosols of an infected person.




Variants of Concern

Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 are constantly changing through mutation. New variants occur over time; sometimes the new variants emerge and disappear, while others last. With SARS-CoV-2 some of the variants are called variants of concern.

Variants of concern may do one or all of the following:

  • Spread more quickly in the population compared to the current strain
  • Cause more severe disease
  • Compromise immunity that is created through previous infection or vaccination.

Given these potential changes, public health officials at all levels (internationally, nationally and provincially) continue to actively monitor and study emerging COVID-19 variants.

Visit the World Health Organization for more information on the naming of COVID-19 variants of concern and variants of interest.




Preventing Respiratory Infections

COVID-19 and other respiratory infections continue to circulate in Manitoba and around the world. Manitoba, like other jurisdictions, has largely returned to normal activities. However, there are still steps we can take to protect us from the impacts of COVID-19, especially during respiratory illness season, or if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Cover your cough / sneeze.
  • Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Consider your setting, improve ventilation and spend time visiting outdoors.
  • Know if you are eligible for treatment.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched by many people.

Each person may choose a different set of preventive steps they follow based on their own personal risk and preferences.




Preventing Transmission

Get vaccinated

Vaccines have been shown to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, influenza and pneumonia. Updated formulations of the COVID-19 vaccines, the seasonal influenza vaccines, and the pneumococcal vaccines will be available in the fall through doctors' offices, pharmacies and public health offices. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that all individuals who have completed a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines receive a dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine in the fall if it has been at least six months since their last dose or COVID-19 infection. This is especially important for individuals who are considered at high-risk for severe disease. Further information on COVID-19 and influenza/pneumococcal vaccine programs is available at: Province of Manitoba | Vaccine, Eligibility and Vaccine Finder and Province of Manitoba | Seasonal Flu For information on scheduling an appointment for immunizations, please visit Province of Manitoba | Vaccine Finder (gov.mb.ca)


Stay home when you are sick

Stay home when you are sick and away from others until your symptoms have improved, you feel well enough to resume normal activities, you are free of fever for around 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication (e.g. acetaminophen or ibuprofen). During that time, avoid close contact with others, especially people at higher risk of severe illness or complications from a respiratory infection, and avoid non-essential visits to high risk settings (e.g. personal care homes, health care facilities). Further information is available on the Manitoba Health COVID-19 website Province of Manitoba | Next Steps with Symptoms and Exposure

If there are questions about worsening symptoms, call your health care provider or Health Links - Info SantÚ at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257. Call 911 if symptoms are severe.


Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently

Good hand hygiene provides significant protection from many infections, including viral respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds and dry your hands thoroughly afterwards. If using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60 per cent alcohol and allow your hands to dry afterwards.

Manitoba has hand hygiene posters available in several languages.


Cover your cough / sneeze

Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw used tissues in the garbage and immediately wash your hands, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces

Wearing a mask is a personal choice and is no longer required by public health. Masks can be an additional layer of protection along with other measures such as getting vaccinated and staying home when sick.

Situations where wearing a mask may be considered include when:

  • Individuals are sick and cannot avoid close contact with others in indoor spaces.
  • Individuals are at higher risk of severe illness, especially during periods when respiratory virus activity is high in the community. Information on respiratory activity in Manitoba is available at Provincial Respiratory Surveillance Report | Health | Province of Manitoba (gov.mb.ca).
  • In settings where there are many people who are at higher risk for severe disease. For example, healthcare facilities and personal care homes may continue to use masks.
  • Individuals are caring for someone who is sick to help protect themselves from getting ill.

Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) website for more information, including posters, on how to choose, use, and care for a mask as well as how to make your mask fit properly.


Consider your surroundings, improve ventilation and spend time visiting outdoors

Poorly ventilated spaces, crowds, and large gatherings will increase the risk of exposure to a respiratory virus. Ventilation, whether through opening windows or the use of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, can increase the amount of outside air brought inside. This will dilute the number of viral particles in the air, and help to reduce the risk of exposure. Spending time outside may also be an alternative.

During times when respiratory illnesses are widely circulating in the community, if you are at higher risk of severe illness or want to take additional precautions, consider limiting the number of people you routinely have close contact with. More information and resources on ventilation are available at www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/guidance-documents/guide-indoor-ventilation-covid-19-pandemic.html


Know if you are eligible for treatment

Treatments are available for COVID-19 and influenza to help prevent severe illness in individuals who are at higher risk of severe disease. To be effective, you need to begin treatment within days of your symptoms starting, so the best time to find out if treatment may be recommended for you is before you get sick. People who are more likely to develop severe illness include older adults, people with certain medical conditions, people who are pregnant, and people who are unvaccinated. People who are vaccinated and not vaccinated can receive treatment.

More information on treatment for COVID-19 is available here: Province of Manitoba | Treatment. More information on influenza is available here: Seasonal Flu Factsheets | Health | Province of Manitoba (gov.mb.ca).


Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects frequently touched by many people.

Surfaces and objects are more likely to become contaminated with COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses the more often they are touched. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are touched more often can inactivate the virus, making it no longer infectious.