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March 17, 2020 | 5 minute read

FAQs About the COVID-19 Outbreak

This page has been updated on May 27, 2020. Information on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Please visit the links below for the latest information.

As the new coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, continues to impact our nation and our world, we want to share guidelines from reliable sources to help you protect yourself and others from this virus.

In general, cancer patients undergoing treatment are particularly vulnerable to infections due to reduced immunity. Therefore, creating a firewall against infection is key to protecting patients and survivors as well as guarding against the spread of coronavirus in the community. We never stop caring for those whose lives are touched by cancer and AICR never lowers our resolve for cancer prevention. With your continued support during this time, AICR will continue to advance research, improve cancer education and connect patients with life-saving resources. Please consider making a donation today.

What is COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a new strain that was only discovered in 2019 and had not been previously identified in humans.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed COVID-19 cases. The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. The CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.

How serious is COVID-19?

According to WHO, symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected, but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Estimates vary on what percent of people with COVID-19 will become seriously ill and develop difficulty in breathing. Currently, research shows that older people, and those with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart conditions or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

 How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

The CDC and WHO recommend following these guidelines to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth where it can enter your body.
  • Avoid close contact (being within 6 feet) with people who are sick, especially those who are coughing or sneezing.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.
  • Stay home if you are sick.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and other symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your health-care provider for medical advice. 

Do cancer patients need to take special precautions?

During the evolution of COVID-19, wrong information can be dangerous for people living with cancer who may already have weakened immune systems. That’s why it’s important to listen to credible sources. The CDC tells cancer patients that taking just a few precautions now is your best defense in preventing and avoiding illness from this novel coronavirus.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) says the same rules apply for people with cancer as for those without cancer: Be sure to wash your hands well, and wash them frequently. Avoid touching your face and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

ASCO also recommends that cancer patients who think they may have been infected with the new coronavirus should contact their doctor if they have symptoms, particularly if either of the following 2 conditions apply:

  1. You have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.
  2. You live in or have recently traveled to an area known to have an outbreak of the disease.

As a researcher, what guidelines should I follow?

As health concerns about COVID-19 continue to increase, AICR advises researchers to follow the recommendations set by their state/provinces and institutions. Many institutions are providing guidance to their research communities to help plan for potential impacts and to ensure research continuity during the outbreak, where feasible. Please stay up to date with the latest guidelines from WHO.

 Where can I get the latest and most reliable information about COVID-19?

AICR recommends staying up to date with the latest recommendations from the following sources:

What is AICR doing at this time?

The health and safety of AICR employees, those conducting cancer research and all health professionals is of utmost importance during the coronavirus outbreak. AICR leadership and staff are following the local and national recommendations and taking extra precautions, as we continue to lead the charge in cancer prevention and survivorship.

We thank you for your continued support.

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