Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered

Should you worry about the virus being transmitted in the mail? Jefferson experts answer this question and more.

Last week we asked our Instagram followers what questions they had on the coronavirus. Here, we share their questions and answers from Jefferson’s experts in infectious disease, research, mental health and more.

Should we worry about COVID-19 being transmitted through the mail?

“There might be a risk that the person who packaged or delivered the box is infected with coronavirus and we are not certain how long the virus can live on cardboard. When receiving an Amazon box or other similar delivery, open the box in your garage or immediate foyer so as to not spread virus throughout the house. Take out the items and immediately discard the box then wash your hands thoroughly.” –Bruce Meyer, President, Jefferson Health

How is this different from other “pandemics” like swine flu, etc.?

“We haven’t seen a pandemic of this magnitude probably in 100 years in the way that it has affected the entire world. We’ve seen influenza outbreaks. We’ve seen Ebola. We’ve seen SARS and MERS but somehow they remained contained. This has truly become pandemic since it really and truly spread worldwide. I have to say that’s the principal difference. Certainly, in my long career, I’ve never seen anything like this.” – Dr. John Zurlo, Division Director of Infectious Disease, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals (TJUH)

Is COVID-19 being over-exaggerated? Are all of these closures necessary?

“It is not being over-exaggerated. We are not overreacting. The fatality from this virus is very high, certainly in comparison to our seasonal flu. In some ways, I wonder whether we’re not reacting aggressively enough in containment. Containment is really the key. Self-quarantining is absolutely necessary.” – Dr. Zurlo

“As well as the other preventative measures. In addition to quarantining, practice hand-washing, social distancing, covering your cough, using a tissue when you sneeze and staying home if you’re sick.” – Kelly Zabriskie, Director, Infection Prevention, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

If you get COVID-19 once, can you get it again?

“We don’t know. We can guess in the short term probably not. In the long-term, we don’t know how natural immunity from the infection will last.” – Dr. Zurlo

When is the person with COVID-19 contagious?

“Certainly when they’re symptomatic, when they’re coughing very hard and sneezing–in the middle of their illness, they’re probably shedding a lot of the virus. Like every viral infection, as their symptoms wane so does the viral load or the amount of virus that they’re shedding. They become less infectious as they improve. I think what everyone’s concern is those people in the earliest stages of infection when they’re minimally symptomatic, are likely shedding some virus. Some of those people become minimally symptomatic, and then they get better right away and maybe they don’t show up for medical testing because it is a very benign illness. That’s the challenge. Clearly the very symptomatic people, coughing and sneezing and so forth, with fever and particularly pneumonia, are the most infectious people.” – Dr. Zurlo

Why are your outpatient facilities still open?

“We are consolidating outpatient practices in a way that optimally safeguards our workforce while providing essential services to our patients.” – Dr. Edmund Pribitkin, Executive Vice President, Jefferson Health

How effective is hand sanitizer compared to hand soap in relation to the virus?

“Both soap and hand sanitizer are effective. At home, use soap. It tends to be milder on your skin and easy to come by. The soap works by breaking open a sort of film of grease or lipids that covers the virus. Without its lipid cover, the virus can’t infect cells. Hand sanitizer is great to carry around when you do need to go outside. A good rule of thumb is “sanitize in, sanitize out.” In other words, before you grab a door handle and go into a shared space like a grocery store, sanitize your hands. Then sanitize again, after you’ve left to disinfect against anything you’ve touched that might have the virus on it.”
– Dr. Matthias Schnell, Professor, and Chair of Microbiology and Immunology, Jefferson

How can we best ensure we are keeping our bodies healthy during this time?

“Staying healthy isn’t just about not getting sick. Maintaining mental and physical health helps people fight disease more effectively. You can break a sweat with high energy workouts at home.” – Toril Hinchman, Direct of Fitness and Wellness, Jefferson
[Editor’s note: There are a number of workout apps to download, but you can also follow one of Hinchman’s routines.]

“It’s also important to recognize the heightened level of stress and anxiety we’re under. From using technology to stay connected with friends and colleagues to allowing, but limiting, how much time you spend on reading news or worrying.” – Dr. Deanna Nobleza, Director of the Student Personal Counseling Center, Jefferson

What precautions should pregnant women take?

“Pregnant women are at a higher risk of miscarriage if they contract COVID-19, and so doctors specializing in maternal-fetal medicine are recommending pregnant women get in touch with providers before going in for their scheduled visits. While many visits can be done via telehealth, some tests may still require an in-person visit to ensure mom and baby are healthy and safe. With rapidly changing recommendations, though, the best advice is to check with your doctor before going in.” –Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, Director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Jefferson Health

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COVID-19, Special Reports