Columbus, OH,
15:20 PM

NBC4: Common Questions About COVID-19

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reaching over 1,000 in the United States as of March 12, Joe Gastaldo, MD, OhioHealth system medical director, infectious diseases, answers everything you need to know about this virus, like where it came from and how to protect yourself from contracting it.

When we hear the word “coronavirus," Dr. Gastaldo recommends thinking about cars. Just like there are lots of different makes and models of cars, there are lots of different types of coronaviruses, with the first versions appearing as far back as the 1960s. The version that appeared this past winter is known as the novel coronavirus, meaning it’s a type that’s never been discovered before. The disease it causes is called COVID-19.

According to a recent study from the American Medical Association, over 80% of those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in China only had mild cold-like symptoms, like headache, sore throat and dry cough. Those who were hospitalized or died from the disease were typically older in age and had other underlying health conditions, like lung disease, heart disease and diabetes.

“My general feel for the people in central Ohio is to just realize it is here,” Dr. Gastaldo told NBC4 reporter Kristine Varkony. “There are approximately 18,000 people who have died from influenza complications since this flu season began. What’s likely to make you sick today is influenza and not this coronavirus. But we have to be very cognizant of basic things that we already know and can improve on when it comes to infection prevention measures.”

These measures include sanitizing your hands often with either ethanol-based hand product or soap and water, getting proper sleep and hydration, making sure you’re up-to-date on vaccinations and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

“The way you get infected with this virus is if it comes into contact with cells of your respiratory system,” said Dr. Gastaldo. “Even with something as simple as touching your eyes, the virus can get into your tear ducts and travel through your sinuses and get in that way.”

When it comes to the surgical masks we see people wearing throughout the country, Dr. Gastaldo recommends passing these up.

“Masks are not recommended for public use to be used,” he said. “In the hospital, the masks we use specifically for someone who had this virus or something like tuberculosis is a mask you have to be fitted for. It is not something you could buy or properly wear without being fitted for it. They should really be reserved as a society for healthcare systems.”