The following is an article from the New York Mills Dispatch, which reached out to Dr. Thomas Seaworth at Perham Health’s New York Mills Clinic to answer some questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Thomas Seaworth, family medicine specialist at Perham Health’s New York Mills and Ottertail clinics

Q: What are some of the ways COVID-19 is spread?

A: Because this is a new virus, we are still learning. It is spread mainly from person-to-person from respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can be inhaled or land on the mouth, nose, or eyes of other people.

It may be possible for the virus to spread by a person touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. It may remain in the air for some time after the infected person has moved away.

Q: Can you get COVID-19 from someone who isn’t showing symptoms? Is it spread more easily by people who have symptoms as opposed to not?

A: Yes, you can.

Although it is thought that people with COVID-19 are most contagious when they are sick, there are reports that a person may have COVID-19 and spread the disease before they know they have it. It is not believed this is the main way it is spread.

Q: What makes COVID-19 different from influenza and more recently H1N1?

A: These are all viruses.

COVID-19 is new. COVID-19 is deadlier than influenza. H1N1 is an influenza virus. Symptoms are relatively similar for all three.

For influenza, we have vaccinations. Although the vaccines may be only 40-60 percent effective, it is thought that those who have been vaccinated have milder symptoms, and they have a lower death rate. We also have antiviral medications that we could use against both influenza and H1N1.

Right now, we have no vaccination for COVID-19, but experts are working hard to develop one. There are no studies that show there are medications that are effective against COVID-19. There are anecdotal stories about Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin that indicate they may work, but we have no studies to support it yet. These are being used in some hospitals for infected patients and that information will be helpful to determine if it is effective treatment.

The internet treatment of a gargle made up of different substances will not prevent nor treat COVID-19. There are no supplements nor natural products that have been shown to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Q: If you get COVID-19, what are some of your symptoms and what should you do?

A: Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, and recently reported loss of smell. Less frequently, some patients have diarrhea. Some have reported body aches.

The more serious symptoms are shortness of breath, chest pain or chest pressure, confusion, cyanosis (turning blue; especially the lips), confusion or lethargy, or inability to wake up or arouse. Those serious symptoms warrant an immediate call to your doctor, provider, clinic or hospital for instructions as to what to do next.

DO NOT go to your clinic, hospital, or emergency department without calling ahead. Patients with suspected COVID-19 will be directed where to go and if an ambulance is indicated.

Q: What are some of the high risk categories, as they are being termed, for people who are more susceptible for the serious side effects of COVID-19?

A: People who are at increased risk include those who are age 65 and older, are morbidly obese, smoke, have chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, emphysema (COPD), or immunosuppressive disorders. Patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, or are on medications that decrease immunity, are also at risk.

If you are not sure if you are at risk, contact your doctor or provider and they can better advise you.

Q: When should you seek medical attention and when should you stay home and “wait it out?”

A: People should contact their doctor or provider if they develop the symptoms listed in Question 4 or think they may have contracted COVID-19.

We can easily answer questions and hopefully ease the worries patients may have. It is best to call when one is suspicious of the disease, especially if they have traveled within the last two to three weeks or have been in contact with someone who has the disease. People should contact a health care provider if they are having symptoms and are getting worse. It is better to call too soon than too late.

Q: What is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19? What can people do on their own to help slow down the outbreak?

A: The best way is to stay home unless you absolutely need to go someplace (get necessary groceries, go to the doctor, get gas, or only anything else allowed by the Governor’s restrictions). People need to wash their hands frequently by using soap and water and washing for 20 seconds. People need to cover their coughs or sneezes. People need to maintain the six foot apart rule.

As people return from their winter homes, they should self isolate for two weeks until they know they aren’t sick. That means delaying the visits to family, friends, grandkids, etc., for at least two weeks. People need to stay active. Daily exercise is important, but maintain social distancing.

Q: What the best place where you can find reliable information about COVID-19?

A: Probably best places to get information are the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health websites, Perham Health website, and Sanford Health website.

If patients get their health care elsewhere, their clinics likely have a website with COVID-19 information.