What Exactly Is the Coronavirus?
Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world. Seven different coronaviruses, that scientists know of, can infect people and make them sick. Most coronaviruses infect animals, but not people.
Some human coronaviruses were identified many years ago and some have been identified recently. What makes the current coronavirus outbreak in China unusual is that it is one that hasn’t been seen before.
What Is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the viruses cause respiratory infections, including the common cold, which are typically mild.
Some strains of the coronavirus are more deadly. These include:
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and has since caused illness in people in more than 25 other countries, including the United States. Most people reported having MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Only two patients in the U.S. have ever tested positive for MERS-CoV infection—both in May 2014.
Between November 2002 and July 2003, an outbreak of SARS in southern China caused an eventual 8,098 cases, resulting in 774 deaths reported in 17 countries, with the majority of cases in mainland China and Hong Kong
The Wuhan Coronavirus
The 2019 novel coronavirus (provisionally named 2019-nCoV)and informally known as the Wuhan coronavirus, is a contagious virus that causes respiratory infection. It is the cause of the ongoing 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
What Are the Symptoms?
For confirmed 2019-nCoV infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
The CDC believes that, based on the incubation period of MERS viruses, symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure.
How to Prevent Infection
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- 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 using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
No Need to Panic
Currently, the 2019 novel coronavirus has only spread to 35 of 195 countries and there is no current evidence of it spreading further in those countries because of prompt preventative actions by the World Health Organization and local governments.
While the data is preliminary, the number of deaths compared to the number of recoveries puts the mortality rate at a similar level to standard seasonal flu, below 1%. While preventative measures and prompt reporting of similar symptoms is a necessary precaution, especially for the elderly, there is no need what so ever to consider the coronavirus an imminent threat outside of China.
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