When will this end? Can high temperatures kill coronavirus? Your questions answered

When will this end? Can high temperatures kill coronavirus? Your questions answered

Readers from around the world have asked more than 50,000 questions about coronavirus. CNN is answering some of the most popular questions here.

Q. When will social distancing end? 

A. Probably not, medical experts say.

Many doctors say they believe social distancing guidelines will or should stay in effect.

“Our modelers suggest that in Boston, we will probably be in the thick of it in the middle to late of April,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“If we are in the thick of it, it will be very clear we’re not going to be able to recongregate at that time. … If we thought so, we wouldn’t have sent all our kids home from college.”

Q. How long will we have to keep social distancing?

A. Probably for several months. But you might have to do it “over and over again,” since the outbreak could come in waves.

Research by the Imperial College in Great Britain “would suggest you have to institute these kinds of measures for five months, very vigorously,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center.

“And then you may be able to relax for a period. And then you would re-institute as the cases go up again. But we’re basically looking at doing this over and over and over again, even after a five-month period of strict social distancing, in order to curb cases until we have a vaccine.”

Health officials say we’re at least a year away from the first publicly available coronavirus vaccine. In the meantime, they say everyone should avoid large crowds and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

Q. If people can spread the virus without showing any symptoms, how can I tell who’s infected and who’s not?

A. You can’t, said Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster and operational medicine at George Washington University Hospital.

“We’re so far behind on testing, there’s only one way we can be certain not to transmit the virus and be certain not to get it ourselves,” Phillips said.

“We need to start treating every person as though they have this. And everyone needs to treat us like we have it, and socially distance ourselves in that manner. Because until we have testing, we don’t know who has this. And we’re not sure when they start spreading it.”

That’s why it’s so critical to avoid crowds, stay at least 6 feet away from others, wash or disinfect your hands, and stop touching your face.

Q. How long does coronavirus stay “alive” on surfaces?

A. Up to three days, depending on the surface. According to a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health:

  • The new coronavirus is viable up to 72 hours after being placed on stainless steel and plastic.
  • It was viable up to four hours after being placed on copper, and up to 24 hours after being put on cardboard.
  • In aerosols, it remained viable for three hours.

Q. Can high or low temperatures kill coronavirus?

A. “Generally coronaviruses survive for shorter periods of time at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or dryer environments. However, we don’t have direct data for this virus, nor do we have direct data for a temperature-based cutoff for inactivation at this point,” the CDC says.

“The necessary temperature would also be based on the materials of the surface, the environment, etc.”

President Donald Trump suggested this coronavirus could subside by the warmer summer months, but scientists say it’s too early to tell. And the fact that coronavirus is spreading in the Southern Hemisphere during its summer months indicates this strain might not succumb to warmer temperatures.

“The short answer is that while we may expect modest declines in the contagiousness of (novel coronavirus) in warmer, wetter weather and perhaps with the closing of schools … it is not reasonable to expect these declines alone to slow transmission enough to make a big dent,” wrote Dr. Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Q. Can mosquitoes transmit coronavirus?

A. No. “To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes,” the World Health Organization says.

“The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.”

Q. Is it safe to get takeout from restaurants?

A. Yes, but you may want to wipe down the packaging and containers, just in case.

There’s no evidence to suggest coronavirus is transmitted through food, the CDC says. It’s generally spread through respiratory droplets.

But it’s a good idea to disinfect the takeout containers and wash your hands afterward, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. He stressed that coronavirus is a respiratory virus, and it’s easy to touch your face without realizing it.

Q. Is it safe to go to the dentist?

A. Unless you have an emergency, the American Dental Association suggests rescheduling imminent appointments.

The ADA has urged dentists nationwide to postpone elective procedures until at least April 6.

“Concentrating on emergency dental care will allow us to care for our emergency patients and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments,” ADA said in a March 16 statement.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing are hallmarks of coronavirus.

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks after exposure, the CDC says, though some patients haven’t shown symptoms at all.

The illness varies in its severity, and many patients can recover at home in isolation.

Older adults — ages 60 and older — and people with severe chronic illness are more likely to get seriously sick from the coronavirus.

Q. How does it spread?

A. It primarily spreads between people through respiratory droplets — think coughs, sneezes, spittle.

You can also get coronavirus by touching infected surfaces, then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

Q. How can someone pass along coronavirus when asymptomatic? If not sneezing or coughing, how can they infect others?

A. It’s easy for asymptomatic people with coronavirus to spread the illness, said Dr. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA’s School of Public Health.

“Certainly when you speak, sometimes you’ll spit a little bit,” Rimoin said. “You’ll rub your nose. You’ll touch your mouth. You’ll rub your eyes. And then you’ll touch other surfaces, and then you will be spreading virus if you are infected and shedding asymptomatically.”

Doctors stress that the best way to prevent getting coronavirus is not by wearing face masks, since they often cause more harm than good.

Instead, people should wash their hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds and stop touching their faces – which is harder than it sounds.

Q. Can you get coronavirus through food?

A. There is no evidence to support that coronavirus is transmitted through food, the CDC says. It’s generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets.

“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”

Q. Do I need to wear a mask to prevent coronavirus?

A. If you’re healthy, no. If you have the coronavirus or if you’re a family member or health worker caring for a coronavirus patient, you can.

Infectious disease experts are pleading with the healthy public to stop buying surgical face masks, which aren’t effective against coronavirus transmission, and N95 respirators, which should only be worn by medical professionals.

The worry is, if Americans have bought up all the masks and respirators, there won’t be enough for the health workers charged with treating coronavirus patients.

So if you need a mask because you’re a coronavirus patient or live with a coronavirus patient, that’s OK. But if you’re healthy, skip it.