How did coronavirus start? And answers to your other COVID-19 questions

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- You asked, we answered.

Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, the State Health Director and the Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, joined us in the ABC11 studio on Monday to answer your questions about COVID-19.

Watch the video above for the full question and answer session.

Here were some of the Q&A answers:
Q: Who really has risk?
A: Highest level of risk is someone who is in household contact...so you live in the house with the person, you have a sustained exposure to that person. That's the highest risk. Moderate risk...and again this virus is spread through what we call respiratory droplets, so somebody coughing and sneezing. Those respiratory droplets don't go much beyond 3 feet but certainly not beyond 6 feet. And so what we're saying with close contact is someone who is within 6 feet of a person with symptoms for longer than 10 to 15 minutes. That's considered moderate risk. If you were just in a room but farther away than 6 feet from that person, we're considering that very low risk and if you were just walking by someone... we consider that (although there's never no risk) we consider that incredibly low risk. So it's the high and moderate risk people that our health department will be identifying and monitoring.

Q: Will the pneumonia vaccine help protect me?
A: They are better protected from getting pneumonia. Whether or not it will protect you from this is hard to know. The pneumonia vaccine is protecting you from a bacterial infection. This is a virus so maybe it will help you but it's hard to know

Q: How did it start?
A: There's a family of viruses called coronavirus. So this is one of a family of viruses. There are 7 that can affect humans. Four of them circulate all the time. We see them year after year. Three are what we call novel or new and spread more quickly and cause more severe disease. So these are things like SARS, MERS and then this one. Those three, what we think happened, is that they were in animals and then they had enough of a mutation that they were able to jump from infecting animals to being able to infect humans. So what we think is that that live animal market in Wuhan... there was enough animals and enough of a shift that the virus was able to move from animals to humans. And then able to spread human to human.

Q: What is high-risk and what does the CDC mean by elderly?
A:The CDC is just saying "older people." We are looking at the data and having our epidemiologist help us and we're actually having a conversation with the CDC tonight to say, "what are you defining as high risk?" and if we don't have an answer from the CDC then our epidemiologists are going to be looking at that data and then we might be making that cut. We do know that people who are older are having more severe illnesses. Children and young adults, if they get it at all, it's very mild.

Q: Is it true that 80% of people are showing no symptoms?
A:Mild symptoms. About 81 percent are having mild symptoms. We actually don't know the people who aren't having symptoms. But about 81 percent of them are mild. And it's quite mild in younger people.

Q: So that's why there's an emphasis on elderly?
A:Yeah that's an area of population we've really been thinking hard about is, how do we protect the most vulnerable in our population? And we're thinking through our nursing homes, our long-term care facilities. What extra protection can we wrap around those people but also starting to think about as a community, I think we're going to have to start thinking about how do we start protecting each other? How do we start helping each other? And knowing that our older people and those with underlying conditions are at higher risk and it may be good for them to be staying at home or not exposing themselves and how can we be sure that neighbors are checking in on them? Making sure that they're having all those needs met. So that's one thing that we really want to start talking about this week.

Credit: NCDHHS


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