Everything You Need to Know about the Coronavirus
While the winter is typically a time to discuss illnesses such as cedar allergies, influenza, pneumonia, or even the common cold, this season has been thrown for a loop. If you’ve been following the news these past few weeks, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
The outbreak first started December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but into the new year, has moved across international locations including the United States. Because of this, this illness has been the talk of the world lately.
Now, because this is a novel coronavirus, there are a lot of questions and new information emerging as the outbreak continues. At RediClinic, we’re here to provide you with as much information as we can and help put your mind at ease this winter season! First, let’s get to the basics: What, Where, Why, and How.
What is it?
The coronavirus itself is not new. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections and were first identified in the 1960s. Common coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses and last for a short duration. However, some cases are serious including previous outbreaks of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
This new outbreak is caused from a novel coronavirus (named 2019-nCoV) that has not yet been identified but seems to be a bit more dangerous than the common cold. This 2019-nCoV is the outbreak that started in China and is now spreading globally.
Where is it at in the world?
As mentioned above, this particular virus outbreak started in Wuhan, China, with the first case being identified December 2019. It has now spread internationally, including to the United States.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of confirmed cases worldwide is 40,554. With this, China still currently has the greatest number of cases – with all but 319 of the infections worldwide taking place in mainland China. Below is a map from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) concerning the global locations of confirmed coronavirus cases.
As far as the United States cases go, that map is found below as well, with the confirmed-case states including Washington, California, Arizona, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.
Why is it important?
While most coronaviruses are not dangerous, this new outbreak has resulted in some deaths (909) in China. However, there has only been 1 reported death outside of China. With that said, because 2019-nCoV is a novel coronavirus, there is still information not yet known or currently being looked into.
It is an international outbreak that the CDC is investigating in order to learn all they can about this new virus as well as to ensure that the best measures are taken to prevent a larger outbreak. According to the CDC, “while [they] consider this is a very serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
More information on the CDC’s investigation can be found on their website.
How is it spreading?
So, if 2019-nCoV started in mainland China, how is it spreading across the globe? According to the CDC, public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of the 2019-nCoV. Coronaviruses in general can be found in many mammal species and rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people.
With 2019-nCoV, early on, many patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reported to have had some link to a large seafood and animal market. Thus, this link would suggest animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of people reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating a person-to-person spread.
“There is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and how it spreads. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets”. This virus most likely originally emerged from an animal source, but now appears to be spreading from person-to-person much like the influenza or a common cold. Some viruses are highly contagious (such as the measles) while other viruses are less contagious. According to CDC officials, “At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.”
What about packages or products from China? Well, here is what the CDC had to say about that question:
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States associated with imported goods.”
Now that you have all the background information on 2019-nCoV, let’s dive into some of the most important details: the symptoms!
It’s important to note that for this novel coronavirus, reported illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of Breath
At this time, the CDC believes that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what was previously seen as the incubation period of the MERS virus.
How can you protect yourself?
There is currently no vaccine to protect yourself from 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to protect yourself and prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus.
However, the CDC still recommends taking every day preventative actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. These every day habits include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Another way to protect yourself is in traveling, or in this case, not traveling. Currently, the novel coronavirus in China is given a Warning – Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel to China. For continued updates on the travel situation, you can visit the CDC’s travelers health page. What to do if you must travel to China can also be found on that travelers health page – which includes many of the same preventive actions from above.
What to Do if You Think You May Have 2019-nCoV
So, if you think you may have this novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), what should you do?
If you recently returned from China in the last 14 days and feel sick with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:
- Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Not travel while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
Even if you were not in China but feel that you may have been exposed to the virusor are experiencing these symptoms, it would be beneficial to get checked out by a medical care professional as soon as possible.
If you are sick, here are some steps you can take to help prevent the spread and protect others:
- Stay home except to get medical care
- Separate yourself from other people in your home
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor
- Wear a face mask
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Wash your hands
- Avoid sharing household items
- Monitor your symptoms (and get help quickly if your symptoms worsen)
- Avoid contact with pets and other animals
While coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, isn’t a major deadly outbreak, it certainly is more serious than say the common cold. Regardless of who you are or where you have (or have not) been, it’s important to inform yourself about this new infection and stay up to date on the latest news and information. This will help ensure that you keep yourself and those around you as safe and healthy as possible.
Remember, you can always visit the CDC’s Coronavirus page for continued updates, precautions, answered questions, and more from the CDC’s ongoing investigation.
And if you feel that you could have been exposed to this virus or are experiencing cold- or flu-like symptoms and are looking for convenient care, RediClinic is here to help! The board-certified clinicians at RediClinic will assess and treat you properly. If for some reason your symptoms are more related to the 2019-nCoV, we will ensure that proper referrals are made, to aid in providing appropriate medical care.
Don’t wait if you are experiencing symptoms, even if you feel that it is insignificant.
Find a RediClinic near you and schedule your appointment online today!
*Data and numbers are of February 10, 2020*