Here’s what you really need to know and the science behind it:
At this time if you do not have a fever and have not traveled to or been around someone who has traveled to China in the last 14 days you do not have to worry! Don’t panic! The virus is not floating around in the air everywhere. To date, there have only been 11 confirmed cases in the United States. Of these cases 9 had traveled to the area and two were via person-to-person transmission and were close family members of those that were ill.
Everyone is on alert and everyone is paying attention. There has been so much media coverage it has created a bit of mass hysteria! In fact, now travel is being limited to and from China.
What is 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
The 2019 novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019. It likely started from an animal source and now can spread from person to person. However, it is not currently openly spreading in communities in the United States. Some viruses like the measles virus are highly contagious and some are not. We are not sure yet what will happen with this new virus.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses. One strain is the cause of the common cold! Usually coronaviruses cause respiratory symptoms. Rarer and more dangerous forms of the virus are SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) because they caused rapid sickness. Now we have and now the 2019 novel Wuhan coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV).
Science and epidemiology are helping!
We are more prepared than we were with SARS and MERS. We didn’t have a test back then, now, we have a test. Scientists have mapped the 2019 Novel coronavirus DNA. Since we know where the outbreak first started we can track where the virus is going and we know where it is coming from. Now that the Virus has been isolated scientist can track if it changes overtime. Travelers from China should be watching for and reporting illness. Right now it is pretty contained but we need to continue to monitor the situation and quarantine those who might be ill. What is different is that 2019-nCoV can be contagious before symptoms show up or in people without symptoms, and we are learning more about it now, but so far the USA has a good handle on the matter.
What can I do to protect my family and myself?
The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Currently travel is restricted to and from China. This will help to limit the communities affected by the outbreak. The people at greatest risk for infection are those living in China, traveling to/from China and those having close contact with people who are infected (like healthcare workers or family members). You can also limit your exposure to sick people by refraining from going to areas where sick people gather (like hospitals and doctor’s offices), unless you are sick yourself. If you have to go to the hospital or doctor’s office, try to only bring the people who are sick and not your whole family.
Take everyday respiratory illness precautions:
Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds Use hand sanitizer Avoid touching your face – eyes, nose and mouth
Stay at home if you are sick Stay away from people that are coughing or sneezing Wear a face mask if you are sick
Cover your cough– cough into your elbow or a tissue and toss it
Clean and disinfect surfaces that might be contaminated with germs
If you travel, let your healthcare provider know.
What are signs of coronavirus? Flu? Common cold?
First, you don’t have coronavirus if you have not traveled to China or been around someone that has the virus! Again, there have only been 11 in cases in the US as of February 3, 2020.
Second, it is cold and flu season so you are more likely to have the common cold or possibly the flu. Usually respiratory illnesses cause fever, cough, sneezing and congestion. The flu can make you feel like you got hit by a truck but usually with rest, hydration and supportive care most people get better in a week or so. The young, old and very sickly are always more prone to getting sicker when exposed to viruses, the coronaviruses are no exception.
A complication of all respiratory illnesses is pneumonia. This can cause shortness of breath to the point where one needs to be in the hospital.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus can cause severe pneumonia, kidney problems (which are sometimes noticed by shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, nausea, confusion, or swelling legs, ankles or feet) and even death.
How long does it take to get sick, after being exposed to 2019 novel coronavirus? Incubation period ranges from 2-14 days. That’s why individuals who are determined to be at risk (due to traveling to China or being around an infected person) are being asked to be quarantined for 14 days.
Is there a vaccine for coronavirus? No, but there is one for the flu. If you get the flu vaccine you are more likely to stay healthy than if you didn’t get the vaccine. Scientists are considering developing a vaccine that covers a broader spectrum of coronaviruses so, that if someone gets exposed to this family of viruses, they might not get as sick. Vaccines help your body develop antibodies to an illness. This is how your body starts to fight it. If you get a vaccine, then you have a jump start to at fighting the virus because your immune system already recognizes it.
What is the Treatment for coronavirus?
There is no magic pill from your doctor, so it is best to stay home unless you are really sick! There are no vaccines or antivirals available; thus, there is no specific treatment for coronavirus.
Treatment is supportive care. That means if someone can’t tolerate oral fluids, then IV hydration is needed. If someone can’t breathe, we give them oxygen. If someone’s kidneys are failing, then that can be supported in a hospital too until the person’s body can produce enough antibodies to start fighting the virus on its own.
What if I have been traveling in the last two weeks and I am sick now? Persons are most at risk of the coronavirus if they have traveled to China. Those that have been traveling have been asked to be quarantined (stay home and not around other people) or 14 days. If you are sick and have been traveling, let your doctor know before you come in to be seen. Tell them, “I’ve been traveling, I’m sick and I will be coming in to be seen.”
Don’t panic I understand that the constant media coverage can cause people to be worried but do not let fear guide your actions! Not everyone needs to be tested. Using current guidelines published by the CDC, WHO and Public health, only those that have traveled and meet certain criteria will be tested specifically for the 2019 novel coronavirus. Testing kits are limited. We need to be careful and use our supplies wisely. If we all come in demanding testing and treatment then expect there to be limited supplies when we really need them. Let’s keep this from becoming a horrible pandemic and support each other in a positive manner.
Stay most up to date by following the CDC.
CDC information sheet: