Health experts answer top questions

For the latest information and guidance related to the Coronavirus please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

This Q&A originally published March 20 – The question related to wearing a mask was updated June 17. 

We know that the HEPA filters in Alaska Airlines aircraft are robust and effective at filtering many pathogens from the air. But does this coronavirus float around in the air?

At this time, there is no evidence that the virus floats in the air leading to infection farther away. Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. 

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The virus is fragile and does not live long on surfaces.  

If I travel, what are some things I can do to prevent getting sick?

Great question!  Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent getting sick while traveling is to wash your hands frequently.  This means washing your hands not only before eating and after using the bathroom, but also multiple times throughout the day.  Another helpful recommendation is to wipe down high touch surfaces, like tray tables and arm rests. 

Are children or older adults more susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19 compared with the general population?

There is a lot more to learn about this virus but so far it looks like it doesn’t peer to be very harmful for children.  For most healthy adults this infection may be more like the flu.  At the same time, it does seem to be much more dangerous for older adults and people who have medical issues with their hearts, lungs and kidneys or who may be immunosuppressed. 

How effective is wearing a mask?

The CDC, who advise the country on public health, recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Read more

Meet our doctors:

John Lynch, M.D., M.P.H., is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of is a board-certified physician and medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Dr. Lynch is also a UW associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from the University of Washington. He conducts research on healthcare-associated infections. At the UW School of Medicine. 

Chloe Bryson-Cahn, MD has a master’s degree from the University of Washington School of Public Health and graduated from Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine. She completed a residency at UCLA Medical Center and currently practices at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.

 

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