What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease outbreak began in China in 2019 and spread all over the world to become a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) SARS-CoV-2 is a type of coronaviruses. These viruses are responsible for the manifestation of various diseases such as the common cold, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Symptoms and signs of COVID-19
Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 might present with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Others might develop additional constitutional symptoms, such as nasal congestion. The symptoms might appear two to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. The disease might range from mild to severe, sometimes leading to death. Some people might develop emergency symptoms and signs and should seek urgent medical attention. According to the CDV, these include some of the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath (dyspnea or breathlessness)
- Persistent pressure in the chest
- Chest pain
- New confusion
- Bluish discoloration of the lips or face
What are the routes of transmission for COVID-19?
COVID-19 spreads from person to person. No evidence suggests human transmission to an animal. The disease spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, but scientists are not sure yet of how contagious it is. The point of entry for the novel coronavirus is the mouth and oral cavity, the nose, and the eyes. A secondary route of transmission is by touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.
What are the routes of transmission for a sexually transmitted disease?
Some sexual activities carry a high risk of catching an STD, such as unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Other activities that display a low risk of STD spreading are the following:
- Manual stimulation such as fingering
- Rubbing or frottage
- Oral sex
- Sex toys
- Vaginal or anal sex with an inside condom
The risk of getting an STD increases depending on your lifestyle. For example, having multiple partners or being bisexual puts you at a higher chance of catching an STD.
Can I get coronavirus through sex?
According to Dr. Jessica Justman, a professor and attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, SARS-CoV-2 did not show any patterns of sexual transmission. The virus spreads primarily by respiratory droplets and, secondarily, by contaminated objects and surfaces. According to Dr. Carlos E Rodríguez-Díaz, professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, no evidence suggests that coronavirus is transmissible through vaginal or anal sex. However, it is highly transmissible through kissing, via the saliva. Also, some data advises that SARS-CoV-2 may spread through the oral-fecal route, meaning that rimming or anilingus might result in disease transmission.
Can I have sex with my partner during the coronavirus pandemic?
If you or your partner is SARS-CoV-2-positive, guidelines recommend self-isolation for up to 14 days on average. However, each country and department have their own rules and systems regarding the new pandemic. However, according to Dr. Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist, and professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School, if both you and your partner are SARS-CoV-2-negative, asymptomatic, and live in the same house, there is no particular risk in having sex with each other. In contrast, it might be an activity that relieves stress and anxiety.
Can I have sex with a new partner during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Most experts suggest that now it is not the right timing to socialize physically. Staying home is the number one method of prevention against the new pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. Doctors recommend that people should only come in contact with others when necessary, such as during shopping. However, people can continue sexually expressing themselves through different means, such as masturbation, sexting, or cybersex. In the case of sex toys, experts suggest keeping cleaning them with water and soap, as a method of prevention for COVID-19 and various STDs.
How to protect yourself from COVID-19
Although there is no vaccine available at the moment against SARS-CoV-2, there are many tips an individual can adapt to minimize the risk of infection. According to the CDC, "The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus." The following are some measures you can take to protect yourself from COVID-19:
- Wash your hands often with water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
- Don't touch your mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands, especially when you are in public places.
- Keep your distance from other people, especially from those who are sick.
- Avoid crowded places.
- Avoid close contact with people.
Preventing COVID-19 transmission to the others
Controlling the spread of the disease is also a personal matter. The following are some measures you can take to protect the others from COVID-19:
- Stay home if you have symptoms such as fever, cough, or dyspnea.
- Stay home if you came in contact with a sick person, and you are potentially infected.
- Cough or sneeze on a tissue, or the inside of your elbow, if not available. Throw away the tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- Wear a facemask to protect the others and the people you love.
- Clean and disinfect your house surfaces and objects frequently, such as your cell phone.
STDs that may increase your risk of getting COVID-19
Certain population groups are at a higher risk of getting severely sick with the novel coronavirus. These are the individuals that have chronic diseases, are older than 70 years old, or are immunocompromised. Some STDs that may result in severe chronic diseases, if left untreated, are:
However, most STDs may lead to life-threatening complications if left untreated. Even untreated gonorrhea has the potential to put an individual into a group of high risk, vulnerable populations. A healthy lifestyle, together with regular screenings for other diseases, boosts the immune system and keeps everyone healthier.