Frequently asked questions
All of your questions are answered by medical and / or public health professionals (epidemiologists or health economists) with an MPH and/or MD degree. All of our answers include at least 2 trusted sources.
Each answer is reviewed by 2 of our team members according to their specialty and the nature of your question. Finally, before being published each answer is reviewed and edited by a practicing Board Certified MD / MPH and/or a clinical PharmD MPH.
Please note that this is not a doctor/patient relationship and you will not receive a diagnosis. Your questions will be answered as it would apply to the general public.
The Rocket Doctor team always first tries to find studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals. New research is being published daily, but there are still many unanswered questions about coronavirus.
If we cannot find a study that answers a question, we look for alternative reliable sources of information. We then critically review other news sources, interviews with medical professionals and epidemiologists to find the best available information. We will always provide we used at the end of our answers. Rocket Doctor answers will always be reviewed by two team members and a clinical editor for quality control purposes.
According to the CDC, washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best bet to protect against COVID-19. The physical act of scrubbing those hands combined with the force of the water and soap has the best impact on removing all sorts of things, including bacteria and other possible causes of infection.
If you can’t get access to soap and water, hand sanitizers with >60% ethanol or >70% isopropanol are good substitutes. Because it can be hard to wash with soap and water in a busy hospital, the CDC recommends that healthcare workers focus on sanitizer as above, but incorporate soap and water (for 20 seconds!) as often as possible.
The WHO has good examples of how to wash in text and image, but we think Ellen shows it best! “Ellen Wants to Help Protect You from Getting Coronavirus” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WpFva5PYnU
- The CDC. CDC Statement for Healthcare Personnel on Hand Hygiene during the Response to the International Emergence of COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html
- The World Health Organization. Clean Care is Safer Care. https://www.who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/
This is an important question, as there can easily be confusion about different bacterial and viral vaccinations. Seasonal Influenza is commonly referred to as the “flu” vaccine; receiving this will not affect the immune response / protect a person again COVID-19. Viri have unique chemical make-ups, a lot like a human “fingerprint” that allows the immune system to recognise them. Just as a phone unlock feature will not see “similar fingerprints” as a “pass” signal, our immune system will not see “similar viruses” as a “block” signal.
Similarly, the pneumococcal vaccine, designed to protect against a certain types of bacterial pneumonia, will not confer any immunity against COVID-19.
However, getting other vaccines will help the body build immunity to other diseases. This means that if one gets infected with the COVID-19 causing virus, and is then infected with the flu, the body will not have to fight off two infections at the same time since the body is already immune to one or the other.
In this way, a vaccination can indirectly help someone stay healthier by allowing the immune system the room to fight off COVID-19 and be less likely to get severe complications because of a double infection. Please always consult a healthcare provider to find out what the right choice is for each individual person.
Source: Yale Medicine. COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019). https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/covid-19/
Source: Live Science. A flu shot won’t prevent coronavirus, but it could help our response to the outbreak
Source: UChicago Medicine. COVID-19: What we know so far about the 2019 novel coronavirus. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/prevention-and-screening-articles/wuhan-coronavirus
There is quite a lot of uncertainty around non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs, which include drugs such as Ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, and others) and their use in COVID-19 patients. This question stemmed from a tweet from the French Minister of Solidarity and Health who advised against the use of ibuprofen based on very limited case reports. There is currently no clear scientific evidence establishing a link between NSAIDs and worsening of COVID‑19.
Current recommendations in the US and the UK do not advise against the use of anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Rocket Doctor is monitoring the news daily and will continue to update our site with the most recent information possible.
There have been anecdotal case reports in hospitals in Seattle and other cities that caution against the use of NSAIDs in COVID-19.
At this time, patients should take NSAIDs as prescribed and healthcare professionals should continue to use NSAIDs, but monitor WHO and CDC recommendations daily.
The Pharmaceutical Journal. Advice on NSAIDS and COVID-19. March 17, 2020. https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/news-in-brief/advice-on-nsaids-and-covid-19/20207839.article?firstPass=false
The BMJ, Covid-19: ibuprofen should not be used for managing symptoms, say doctors and scientists (03/17/2020): https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1086
BBC News, Coronavirus and ibuprofen: Separating fact from fiction (03/17/2020): https://www-bbc-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/51929628
CBC News, WHO cautions against using ibuprofen to treat COVID-19.
The New York Times, Is Ibuprofen Really Risky for Coronavirus Patients? (03/17/2020) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/health/coronavirus-ibuprofen.htm
Testing capacity is increasing worldwide on a daily basis, though some countries, such as the United States, are still prioritizing resources for the most severe cases in the face of limited supplies and the speed at which tests can be processed. If one is seeking the opportunity to be tested, the best resource is contacting a local care provider or health department. In major cities across the U.S. and Canada, one can call 311 to get more information on when and where to get tested, or review an online self assessment tool from a local public health agency.
As more about the virus is discovered, new tests are being developed and improved, providing more options to healthcare workers on how to detect and treat COVID-19. Current tests use a number of methods to obtain a sample, such as a nose or throat swab or, most recently, an oral swab. In an effort to increase the number of tests administered, the options for where one could get tests are expanding rapidly. Initially, most testing was relegated to a laboratory or formal medical setting, which limited access to the general public. However, in the weeks since the pandemic has been declared, new options, such as drive thru testing and other point-of-care site services, have emerged. Despite this progress, leading bodies, such as the WHO, have encouraged caution in their use due to some concerns about the current wave of rapid tests and how accurate they are. The FDA and Health Canada have yet to approve at-home COVID-19 testing at this time, although many options are currently in clinical trials.
With the increase of testing availability, many medical and public health bodies are calling for mass testing outreaches.
Please check with a local public health agency for guidelines about what is being offered by city, state, province or otherwise.
Source 1: CNBC. More than 1 million people tested for coronavirus in US, but access varies from state to state. April 3, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/03/coronavirus-testing-which-states-are-doing-the-most-covid-19-screening.html.
Source 2: The CDC. Testing in the U.S. April 13, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Ftesting-in-us.html
Source 3: Government of Canada. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (2020). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
Source 4: CNN. FDA authorizes Covid-19 saliva test for emergency use. April 14, 2020. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/14/health/coronavirus-test-saliva-fda-emergency-use-bn/index.html.
Source 5: The Verge. Newly approved novel coronavirus test gives results in 45 minutes. March 23, 2020. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/23/21191055/rapid-coronavirus-test-hospital-fda.
Source 6: Michigan State University. Potential COVID-19 Test Delivers Results in Less than 10 Minutes. April 10, 2020. https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2020/potential-covid-19-test-delivers-results-in-less-than-10-minutes/.
Source 7: Spartan Bioscience. Spartan Bioscience receives Health Canada approval for fast, portable COVID-19 test. April 13, 2020. https://www.spartanbio.com/company/news/spartan-bioscience-receives-health-canada-approval-for-fast-portable-covid/
Source 8: WHO. Advice on the use of point-of-care immunodiagnostic tests for COVID-19. April 8, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/advice-on-the-use-of-point-of-care-immunodiagnostic-tests-for-covid-19.
Source 9: Foreign Policy.Without Mass Testing, the Coronavirus Pandemic Will Keep Spreading. March 23, 2020. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/23/coronavirus-pandemic-south-korea-italy-mass-testing-covid19-will-keep-spreading/
Source 10: WHO. WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 16 March 2020. March 16, 2020. https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—16-march-2020
Source 15: United States Food and Drug Administration: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: Daily Roundup April 14, 2020. April 14 2020. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-daily-roundup-april-14-2020
It is better to avoid in-person contact with grandparents and other older adults even if you and your family have been practicing social distancing and other coronavirus-prevention strategies. This is because the virus is most severe in older adults, so extra precautions should be taken just in case you or a younger family member accidentally transmits the virus. Not all cases of coronavirus are symptomatic, especially in children, which is another reason it is better to connect with grandparents through video chat, phone calls, emails, text, or mail at this time. With that said, it is definitely important and encouraged to remain in contact with family and check in to keep everyone’s spirits up.
Ideally yes, but right now, it might be much better to stay home. Our testing systems in Canada and the USA still aren’t fully in place to withstand everyone coming in (although some are). The best thing to do is to contact your local public health system to understand what is available to your community.
The most common symptoms include fever (experienced by 98% of cases) and cough (76%), difficulty breathing (55%) and muscle pain/fatigue (44%). Less common symptoms include phlegm or blood in cough, headache, or diarrhea.
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What does it mean to flatten the curve? In the fight against epidemics, slowing the spread of infection is nearly as important as stopping it, according to Drew Harris, a population health analyst who created an early version of this graphic, which has since ricocheted around the Internet. Slowing the spread reduces the number of cases that are active at any given time, which in turn gives doctors, hospitals, the police, schools and vaccine manufacturers time to prepare and respond without becoming overwhelmed, he said. Tap the link in our bio for our interview with Dr. Harris as he explains what we can do to mitigate a surge in cases to save lives, and keep society going.