How Corona Silently Spreads

A mother carries her young child while wearing a protective mask

Disclaimer: this article was written at the end of April 2020 — it’s very possible information could be out of date as time goes by. I apologize ahead of time.

Coronavirus (COVID19) has taken the world by storm. I work in healthcare as a personal medical legal assistant to a doctor. I would sometimes go to the hospital to get my job duties for the week. I remember discussing the virus as it was first hitting the news with how quickly it was spreading in China. We agreed that what was coming within the upcoming weeks would determine how bad things would really get for potentially the world.

Fast forward a few months later and America (where I live) is seriously struggling. I got my graduate degree in public health (otherwise known as preventative medicine). We discussed extensively how the world was vastly inadequately prepared for a global pandemic. COVID19 has completely crippled the world’s hospitals, economies, and the daily lives of its inhabitants. I brushed up on my epidemiology and checked in with some of the doctors I am colleagues with to stay up to date with the latest symptoms, signs, and how people spread it (regardless of if they claim to have symptoms/signs or not).

As of the end of April 2020, this is the information we have so far. According to the doctors I work with who are on the front lines in hospitals all over the USA, these are the common signs and symptoms they’ve seen patients exhibit:

  • Fever (100 degrees F or higher)
  • Muscle pain
  • Cough (often accompanied with chest pain) and in some cases, coughing up blood
  • Chills/Sweats (often accompanied with physically shaking)
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Feeling short of breath (like you can never “quite catch your breath”)
  • Feeling like you suddenly can’t taste and/or smell things like you used to be able to

So this brings up the excellent question for those unfamiliar with how viruses actually infect others: how do people who claim to not exhibit any of these signs or symptoms actually infect others? An excellent question to which I can provide an answer!

When viruses infect other people, they essentially “hijack” the person’s cells (remember, we are made of roughly 37 trillion cells, all with their own functions to help our body stay healthy). It multiplies itself (rapidly) inside of our body. Many people who report not feeling any signs or symptoms end up feeling the signs and symptoms listed above after testing positive for coronavirus. So what about that period beforehand?

This virus (COVID19) spreads through droplets. You know when you breathe on your hand (and your hand is close to your mouth), it feels a little warm and ever so slightly damp? That dampness is damp because of water droplets. These body fluids are how the virus spreads to people. Some examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Spitting while talking and said droplets land on a person and then they touch their body near an opening on their body (nose, mouth, ear, eyes, etc.)
  • Touching a contaminated surface and then touching an opening on your body
  • Speaking next to someone, walking away, and then another person passes through the area where you were speaking (and the droplets get into your body’s opening)

If you are following this train of thought, you can see how terrifyingly quickly these kinds of viruses can spread. Right now experts argue with how long exactly the virus can remain living in the air (as well as how far it can travel if someone sneezes). This is why it’s very important for us to wear protective gear while out in public (gloves, masks, etc.) to try to help reduce the risk of us contracting a disease. We also need to practice good hygiene (I recommend humming in your head or out loud “Old Mcdonald Had A Farm” nursery rhyme to make sure you’re washing your hands for the proper amount of time).

This is NOT the seasonal flu. Many popular attractions and places people gather (schools, Disney parks, LGBTQIA PRIDE events, etc.) have closed indefinitely because of the fear of causing many people to contract this potentially serious disease.

Stay safe! Be alert but not anxious. Follow the CDC, WHO, and your primary care doctor for guidelines about COVID19!

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.