25 Coronavirus Facts You Should Know by Now

How long does it stay on surfaces? Who's least affected? These coronavirus facts may surprise you.

It's highly unlikely that you don't already know a lot about coronavirus, the global pandemic currently rolling across the globe, killing thousands and infecting hundreds of thousands, including world leaders and movie stars. In fact, we'd bet an hour doesn't go by that you don't hear about some new coronavirus information. But while you've no doubt read plenty of alarming headlines about the novel virus known as COVID-19, you may have missed some of the fine print. We consulted scientific research and medical professionals to gather the facts about coronavirus you likely haven't heard.

Symptoms vary depending on the individual—and some people don't show any signs at all.

young girl having severe chills

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) originally released a list of common coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. But now, the CDC has added new symptoms, including chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and loss of taste and smell.

Doctors have also reported strange coronavirus symptoms they've seen on the front lines: purple, blue, or red lesions on feet and toes, a fizzing sensation on the skin, pink eye, and confusion, among others. Some people are also asymptomatic, meaning they don't show any signs of sickness or infection.

There are no approved cures or vaccines.

Close-up medical syringe with a vaccine.

Although President Donald Trump mentioned in a televised press briefing that hydroxychloroquine is an effective drug, it is not a cure for coronavirus. According to NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, MD, the anti-malaria drug has potential but needs longer more intensive clinical trials before doctors can gauge if it's an effective treatment for COVID-19.

In another press briefing on April 23, President Trump also discussed injecting disinfectant as a potential coronavirus remedy. This was widely opposed by doctors and medical professionals. Even Reckitt Benckiser Group, the British company that produces Lysol, released a public statement that same day saying, "Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)." And for more information on fake coronavirus vaccines, These Are the Bogus COVID-19 Cures You Need to Ignore Right Now.

Men are more likely to die from coronavirus than women.

Man coughing wearing a scarf

As COVID-19 spreads, doctors are seeing a drastic difference in how men and women are affected. Sara Ghandehari, a pulmonologist and intensive care physician at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles told The New York Times that "75 percent of the hospital's intensive care patients and those on ventilators are men." Ghandehari and other doctors are now conducting studies using hormones predominantly found in women—like estrogen and progesterone, the latter of which has anti-inflammatory properties—to try to treat patients.

Minorities are more at risk of coronavirus.

An African-American man wearing a protective face mask to prevent virus infection while staring out window

Sure, anyone can contract coronavirus, but data shows that some ethnic groups are more at risk of dying from the pandemic than others. This is due to a variety of factors, including a systemic lack of health care, reliance on public transportation in urban areas, and job inflexibility that does not permit or allow for self-quarantining. In fact, The Detroit Metro Times reports that African-Americans account for 40 percent of coronavirus deaths in Michigan, even though they only account for 14 percent of the state's population. And if you're concerned about contracting the illness, check out 10 Mental Health Tips for People at High Risk for COVID-19.

Coronavirus can cause young adults to have strokes.

woman with her hands on her head

Doctors have seen a slew of coronavirus patients in their 30s and 40s suffering from sudden strokes, a condition that is most often seen in senior citizens (the median age for a severe stroke is 74). J Mocco, a physician-researcher at Mount Sinai, told The Washington Post that "the number of patients coming in with large blood blockages in their brains doubled during the three weeks of the COVID-19 surge." More than half of those patients—who were younger and had few risk factors—tested positive for coronavirus.

If you have high blood pressure, you could be at greater risk of COVID-19.

Doctor with older patient

Researchers examined 5,700 coronavirus patients in New York and found one condition they had in common: high blood pressure. The resulting study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in association with New York-based Northwell Health, found that the most common comorbidities among those with COVID-19 were hypertension (56.6 percent), obesity (41.7 percent), and diabetes (33.8 percent). This is unnerving as nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). And if you want to support the doctors and medical professionals on the front lines, check out 7 Easy Ways to Support Health Care Workers During COVID-19.

It poses a greater risk to people with obesity.

Man's stomach

While it's well known that the elderly and those with compromised respiratory systems are at a greater risk of contracting and dying from coronavirus, less discussed is the fact that obesity and diabetes can also make people more susceptible.

"Patients with diabetes are more susceptible to severe complications from viral infections of any kind, and as a result, are considered a high risk population for COVID-19," says Rocio Salas-Whalen, MD, of New York Endocrinology. "Due to the pathophysiology of diabetes, patients can take longer to heal, putting them at risk for developing complications from the virus. This is true with any type of infection in diabetes."

Salas-Walen also points to research that has found that excess weight changes the efficacy of the flu shot.

One in three test results are false-negative.

coronavirus test kit

If your coronavirus test comes back negative, don't celebrate just yet. One in three negative test results are actually defective, according to an April report by The Wall Street Journal. This high false-negative rate could be due to how fast manufacturers created and distributed the tests, lacking the time needed for health regulators to thoroughly vet the test themselves. A shortage of hospital staff and a lack of training to collect samples are also potential reasons for the margin of error, according to Bloomberg. And if you want to separate fact from fiction, check out these 21 Coronavirus Myths You Need to Stop Believing, According to Doctors.

You can contract coronavirus twice.

Woman sick in bed with a fever and the flu

Countries around the world are considering "immunity passports," or official government documents allowing those who have recovered from coronavirus to return to work. But that may not be the wisest move as you could potentially get coronavirus again. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a scientific brief on April 24 stating, "There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection." With that in mind, people should continue safe social distancing and hygiene habits.

Air conditioning spreads COVID-19 faster.

An air conditioning unit

The CDC released a new report that linked a January outbreak in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, to its air conditioning unit. Although the affected families were sitting apart from each other, 10 people got sick because "the restaurant's air conditioners blew the virus particles around the dining room," according to The New York Times.

"Since most air conditioning systems cannot filter out very small droplets—so the droplets could be recirculated back to indoor spaces—one should be concerned about the use of air conditioning systems," Qingyan Chen, PhD, a Purdue University professor researching virus transmission through ventilation, previously told Best Life.

There is a new at-home coronavirus test—but you won't be able to get it for a while.

nurse holds a swab for the coronavirus / covid19 test

Pixel, a new product from LabCorp, is the first COVID-19 home test approved by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The emergency authorization will now allow people to self-administer the sample collection by taking a nasal swab. The test costs $119, and the results will be available online. However, not everyone can access one immediately. The kits will first go to medical professionals on the front lines, then later be available to those in quarantine who complete a short health screening survey and are flagged as being at risk of having coronavirus.

Holding your breath is not a valid test for coronavirus.

Young white man making a face while holding his breath amid white background

This is proof that you shouldn't believe everything you see on the internet. A social media post went viral after claiming that if you are able to hold your breath for 10 seconds without coughing or feeling pain, then you don't have COVID-19. However, Gail Trauco, RN, previously told Best Life that the post "was falsely credited to a member of the 'Stanford Hospital board" and that your airways are irritated when you have an acute viral infection, so it's difficult to take a deep breath without coughing, but that is not proof of coronavirus.

COVID-19 can live on surfaces for up to three days.

Woman in a cafe with a cup of coffee

Sure, you know that you don't want to grab the seat at the coffee shop next to someone who's coughing away, but have you stopped to think about who was sitting at your table before you… even as long as three days ago? The truth is, coronavirus can live on surfaces long after an infected person has left. A new study from the National Institutes of Health found that coronavirus can live on plastic and stainless steel for as long as three days.

There could be a second wave of coronavirus in the future.

two men wearing masks on the street

Although we can't predict the future, it wouldn't be a surprise if there's a second wave of the pandemic after businesses open their doors again and life as normal resumes. In fact, the CDC is preparing for this exact scenario in the late fall or early winter, according to Robert Redfield, MD, virologist and director of the CDC. This wouldn't be the first time it happened in history—the 1918 influenza epidemic and 1968 flu pandemic, among others, had subsequent waves.

It won't diminish in warm temperatures.

Woman in the hot sun

Since most people associate the regular flu season with the colder months of the year, many assume that COVID-19 will taper off as temperatures rise. But Salas-Whalen emphasizes that it's not as simple as that.

"Unfortunately, the virology of COVID-19 does not diminish in warm temperatures," she says. "Although the virus may have a seasonal cycle, it is not reasonable to expect a huge decline in transmission due to warmer weather alone. We see the largest decrease in infections when people refrain from being in locations with poor ventilation and/or large crowds."

Some face masks provide better protection than others.

People in London wearing face masks to protect themselves against coronavirus

Because coronavirus is transmitted via droplets, face masks help prevent transmission when an infected person coughs or sneezes. But you might not know that some face masks are actually more effective than others. According to The New York Times, N95 masks block at least 95 percent of tiny particles while medical masks are much less effective, only filtering 60 to 80 percent of small particles.

With masks in short supply, many people have resorted to homemade masks, which can protect you if you use a durable fabric like cotton. If you want to sew your own cloth face covering, check out this nifty guide by the CDC.

Coronavirus has cousins.

Female doctor doing testing in a lab

According to an article from the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, COVID-19 is a variant of the coronavirus that caused the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003. As a result, its official name is: severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. It's also a relative of the coronavirus Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS, which surfaced in the Middle East beginning in 2012.

COVID-19 refers to the disease that the virus causes, not the virus itself.

Covid in testing lab

WHO realized that calling the novel virus SARS-CoV-2 might lead to some confusion and anxiety. As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of WHO, put it in February: "From a risk communications perspective, using the name SARS can have unintended consequences in terms of creating unnecessary fear for some populations, especially in Asia, which was worst affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003."

For that reason, WHO opted to refer to it by the name of the disease it results in—COVID-19—rather than by the name of the virus itself.

Pets can get coronaviruses.

Husky at the vet

Unfortunately, cats and dogs are able to contract coronaviruses—sometimes with deadly consequences. A 2011 study in the journal Advances in Virology discusses how what's called pantropic canine coronavirus can infect cats and dogs. And a virus known as feline infectious peritonitis can cause cats to exhibit flu-like symptoms or even organ failure.

At the beginning of March, it was confirmed that a dog in Hong Kong contracted coronavirus from his owner. "There are strains of coronavirus that do affect dogs, typically puppies," Christie Long, DVM, the head of veterinary medicine at Modern Animal in Los Angeles, previously told Best Life. "As coronaviruses themselves are capable of rapid mutation, we are always on the lookout for evidence of disease caused by new strains of this virus."

The good news? WHO states that there is no evidence that a dog, cat, or any pet can transmit COVID-19 to humans.

Previous pandemics were far worse than COVID-19.

Man in hospital bed talking to doctor

Nearly 215,000 people have died around the world as of the time this article was published—a terrible toll, to be sure. But it pales in comparison to the 1957 H2N2 flu, which killed 1.1 million people (0.04 percent of the global population at the time), or the 1918 Spanish flu (responsible for the death of 50 million people), or the black death, which killed 75 million people (almost 17 percent of the global population at the time).

It's less infectious than airborne viruses, like measles.

Woman sneezing or coughing into her elbow

COVID-19 is incredibly contagious. But it's not as contagious as airborne viruses, such as tuberculosis or measles. "It is an infectious disease, which is most likely spread via droplet transmission. This means that it requires large droplets containing particles of the virus to infect a new host," explains Taylor Graber, MD, a resident anesthesiologist at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

"That means that overall it is less infectious than an airborne transmission virus or bacteria, such as measles or tuberculosis. For these other pathogens, it is much easier for them to become aerosolized in the air," Graber notes. "The more that they are in the air, the more infectious they become, since they can infect more patients more quickly. Initial studies have suggested that COVID-19 is not spread via the aerosolized route."

Twenty seconds of hand-washing may not be enough.

Washing hands

You probably thought you were pretty hygienic—always careful to wash your hands after using the bathroom and usually before you had something to eat. But as numerous health officials have reminded us since coronavirus really started to spread, there's a difference between quickly running your hands under the tap and really giving them a scrub. And though 20 seconds has been the recommended amount of time to spend scrubbing, even that may not be enough.

"Be diligent about washing hands appropriately: for 20 to 30 seconds with soap, under warm running water," Graber recommends. Try timing yourself with some of these helpful memes.

Removing your shoes is a must.

Parents taking off their children's shoes at the door

While hand-washing is a vital way to reduce one's risk of contracting COVID-19, those aforementioned droplets can also travel from the outside world into your home on the bottom of your shoes. In order to keep your home coronavirus-free, you should remove your shoes when you come inside.

It's barely affected children.

Child on father's shoulders doing muscle arms

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children 10 and under account for just 1 percent of all COVID-19 cases, while those between the ages of 30 to 79 make up nearly 90 percent. Scientists aren't sure why, but they think the answers may help us defeat COVID-19.

It's seriously testing our health care system.

Hospital hallway

As coronavirus spreads throughout the U.S., the strain it will put on the country's health care system is increasingly apparent. As The New York Times reports:

Our country has only 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. That's fewer than in Italy (3.2), China (4.3), and South Korea (12.3), all of which have had struggles. … It's estimated that we have about 45,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States. In a moderate outbreak, about 200,000 Americans would need one.

Yes, that means less than 25 percent of Americans infected with coronavirus could receive care from hospitals. And if you're in the mood for some feel-good content, check out: These Acts of Kindness Amid Coronavirus Panic Will Restore Your Faith.

Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more
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