THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus is an enveloped RNA virus. Protruding from the surface of the virus are club-like spikes that give coronavirus its characteristic appearance. Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses that affect the respiratory system. Illnesses caused by coronaviruses can be mild (like a common cold) to severe. There have been several notable coronavirus illnesses over the years. SARS and MERS are two recent examples of coronaviruses that caused epidemics.
The coronavirus pandemic currently affecting the world is caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is a respiratory illness characterized by the following symptoms:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
Symptoms can be mild to severe. Some severe symptoms are considered an emergency. You should call 911 immediately if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
Inability to wake or stay awake
Bluish lips or face
How can I protect myself and others?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There is currently no available vaccine or cure for COVID-19, so the best way to protect yourself from the disease is to take steps to prevent contracting the virus. This includes:
Washing your hands with soap and water often. If you do not have soap and water available, use hand sanitizer after touching objects or surfaces.
Keep your hands away from your face.
- Stay home as much as possible to avoid exposure to infected individuals.
If you must leave home, wear a mask and maintain a 6 foot distance from others. Because people can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, assume anyone you come in contact with could be infected.
Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent transmitting the virus to others.
Disinfect frequently used surfaces often.
Should I wear a mask?
The CDC recommends that when you are in a public setting you should wear a cloth face cover. Masks reduce the likelihood of an individual transmitting the virus to others. If 2 people are wearing a mask, the risk is transmission between them is further reduced. Wearing a mask coupled with social distancing (maintaining 6 feet between yourself and others) significantly decreases the likelihood of transmission between individuals.
As of April 2021, the CDC has updated their guidelines for mask wearing for those who are fully vaccinated.
Coronavirus testing information:
Currently anyone can be tested for COVID-19, even if you do not have symptoms. For information on where and how to get tested, contact the GA DPH COVID-19 Hotline. Gwinnett residents can also call the Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale Public Health Department to make an appointment to get tested. You do not need a referral, but you do need an appointment.
GA Department of Public Health
Gwinnett County COVID-19 Testing Site
**CALL for Appt**
How does the test work?
The COVID-19 test is a nasal swab test. A medical professional will place a long swab into your nasal cavity to collect a respiratory sample. This test will look for the presence of viral RNA, which indicates an active viral infection in the body. Some nasal swab tests also look for something called viral antigen, which also tells you if you have an active viral infection.
Does it hurt?
The swab test that is administered by a medical professional must go deep into the nasal cavity. This may be uncomfortable for some individuals, but is usually not painful.
How long does it take to get results?
Some testing sites get tests back within minutes, however most testing sites will get the results back to you within a week to 10 days.
What is the difference between the different types of test?
Viral RNA Test- this test, done by nasal swab, tests for the presence of viral nucleic acid that is specific for SARS-CoV-2. A positive result means that the virus is present in the body.
Viral Antigen Test- this test, also done by nasal swab, tests for the presence of viral proteins. This is usually the type of tests performed during "rapid" tests where you get the results in the same day. Like the RNA Test, a positive results means the virus is present in the body.
Antibody Test- this test, done by blood draw, tests for the presence of antibodies to the virus. Antibodies are our bodies response to the virus. Since they are responding to the virus, they usually appear later in an infection, and will remain in the body for some time. An positive antibody result does not necessarily indicate active infection, but instead tells you that at some point your body was in contact with the virus and tried to fight it off with antibodies. At the current time, it is unclear what information can be gleaned from antibody tests for COVID-19.
There are several types of COVID-19 vaccines available to the public in an effort to combat the illness, death, and the spread of COVID-19. All Georgians, age 16 and up, are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Options for making vaccine appointments:
Pre-register for the Georgia mass vaccination sites
Pre-register for Georgia Department of Health vaccinations
This website tracks open appointments at pharmacies.
Johnson & Johnson- This is a viral vector vaccine uses a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells. For COVID-19 viral vector vaccines, the vector (not the virus that causes COVID-19, but a different, harmless virus) will enter a cell in our body and then use the cell’s machinery to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes COVID-19. This piece is known as a spike protein and it is only found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. The body's immune system will recognize the spike protein as foreign and create antibodies to it. These antibodies will then be available to fight the virus if it enters your body.
Pfizer- This is an mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. These vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that will trigger an immune response inside our bodies. The Pfizer vaccine will teach our cells to make the spike protein. An immune response, which produces antibodies to the spike protein, then protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. Currently this is the only vaccine that is approved for use in children, aged 16 and over.
Moderna-This is also an mRNA vaccine, and works the same way that the Pfizer vaccine works.