Throughout the last few weeks, the news has been full of stories about the ‘novel’ coronavirus that originated from Wuhan in central China. To date, there are nearly 300 total confirmed cases of the virus in various countries.
Here is everything you need to know about coronavirus:
What is coronavirus?
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes coronaviruses (CoV) as “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-Cov).” The virus that originated from Wuhan, China is a new strain that had not been identified in humans until recently.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of coronavirus include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and a general feeling of being unwell. These viruses may also cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses like bronchitis or pneumonia.
The New York Times says that the incubation period for coronavirus (the time from exposure to the virus to the onset of its symptoms) is believed to be around two weeks.
How does coronavirus spread?
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans. The first cases of the novel coronavirus were linked to workers at a live animal market in Wuhan, which was later shut down and disinfected. This prompted experts to believe that the outbreak was caused by an animal, just like MERS and SARS, though they do not yet know what kind of animal that is.
It was also recently determined that coronaviruses can be transmitted from human to human through contact with an infected person or their secretions (e.g., cough droplets), CNN notes. Furthermore, the CDC says that the viruses can be spread by touching an infected surface or object and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands and, in rare cases, through fecal contamination.
Who are the most vulnerable to coronavirus?
The CDC says that most people will get infected with one or more common types of human coronaviruses in their lifetime, and these illnesses typically last for only a short period. Individuals who are most susceptible to being infected with these viruses are infants, older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and those with cardiopulmonary disease.
Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, tells CNN that the fatality rate for the novel coronavirus is lower than that for SARS and MERS, perhaps due to milder cases that have not yet been discovered. Still, he says that novel viruses tend to spread faster.
How is coronavirus treated?
According to the CDC, there are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. There are also no vaccines against these viruses yet. CNN reports that scientists in the U.S. are currently trying to create a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, but it will take more than a year before it is made available.
If you manifest symptoms, you can relieve them by taking pain and fever medication (note that children should not be given aspirin) or using a room humidifier or taking a hot shower to ease cough and a sore throat. The CDC also recommends staying home, resting, and staying hydrated. If you are concerned you may be infected, see your doctor.
How do you protect yourself from coronavirus?
To reduce your risk of coronavirus infection, the CDC advises washing your hands often with water and soap for 20 seconds and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Try to also avoid close contact with infected people.
Additionally, if you’re feeling sick, make sure to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and disinfect the surfaces you touch. If either you or your doctor suspect that you are infected, wear a surgical mask.