The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know


CDC via Wikimedia Commons

A map showing the locations with confirmed cases of the coronavirus (via CDC, Wikimedia Commons)

The 2019-nCoV, more commonly known as the coronavirus, has emerged as a deadly illness over the last several weeks. There have been over 7,000 confirmed cases and 170 deaths in the last month, mostly in China. These statistics have caused international panic, and world leaders are doing all that they can to contain the spread of the virus. Much is still unknown about the coronavirus, but some recent information is outlined below.

How does it spread?

Many of the first cases were linked to a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, indicating that the coronavirus was initially introduced to humans by animals. However, patients who contracted it more recently did not report any contact with animal markets, meaning that it is likely now being spread from person to person. Experts believe that it is transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when a patient coughs or sneezes, the same way that the related viruses MERS and SARS are spread.

What are the symptoms?

Based on the incubation period of MERS, it is believed that symptoms show between 2 days and 2 weeks after being exposed to the coronavirus. Symptoms can include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.

What is my risk of exposure?

Unless you have been to China within the last few weeks, the risk is quite low. There have only been 5 confirmed cases in the United States. However, you should still take basic health precautions.

How do I stay safe?

There is no known cure, and no vaccine has been developed. The best way to prevent contracting the coronavirus is to avoid contact with anyone infected. The CDC recommends taking the following measures to decrease the risk of infection:

  • “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.”

If you believe that you have been exposed to the coronavirus, contact your doctor immediately. If you think you may actually be sick, keep yourself as isolated as possible, call ahead before seeking medical treatment, and wear a face mask when you visit your doctor.

Sources: NBC, CDC

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons