What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause respiratory illnesses in humans ranging from common colds to more severe conditions such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
‘Novel coronavirus’ is a new, previously unidentified strain of coronavirus. The novel coronavirus involved in the current outbreak has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (or “COVID-19”).
How does the virus spread?
COVID-19 can spread from person to person usually through close contact with an infected person or through respiratory droplets that are dispersed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may also be possible to get the virus by touching a surface or object contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, but it is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Where has COVID-19 spread to?
As of the March 6, 2020, there are over 95,000 confirmed cases of infection by the virus—and 3,381 of that number have resulted in death. While most cases of COVID-19 infection are in China, the virus has spread to 88 other countries.
What are the symptoms?
Similar to other respiratory illnesses, the symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
People infected with COVID-19 may experience any range of these symptoms along with aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea. Symptoms can start to show up anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure to the virus3. It may be possible for an infected person who is not yet showing any symptoms to spread the virus. Older persons, and those with pre-existing medical illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, however, seem to be more likely to experience severe respiratory symptoms and complications.
How to protect yourself from coronavirus
The best preventative action is to avoid being exposed to the virus. You can do this by taking a few cautionary steps—the same as you would if you were trying to avoid getting any respiratory illness.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. If soap and water are not readily accessible, use alcohol-based sanitizers.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands if they are unwashed.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your bent elbow when you sneeze or cough. Make sure to dispose of the tissue immediately.
- If you are feeling unwell, stay home.
- If you have no respiratory symptoms such cough, a medical mask is not necessary. Only use the mask if you have symptoms such as coughing or sneezing or suspect a COVID-19 infection. A mask is recommended for those caring for anyone with COVID-19.
What to do if you suspect you are infected?
The symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to those of a cold or the flu, making it challenging to identify the specific cause of any respiratory symptoms. If you suspect you have been infected by COVID-19, you should seek medical care as soon as possible.
Until you can access medical care, you should follow these guidelines to reduce your likelihood of infecting others:
- Restrict your outdoor activities and stay at home as much as you can. If it is feasible, stay in a separate room, and use a different bathroom from others in your household.
- Clean and/or disinfect objects and surfaces that you touch regularly.
- Track your symptoms as accurately as possible, so you can provide medical personnel with useful information.
Are there any treatments or vaccines?
There are currently no treatments, drugs, or vaccines available to treat or prevent COVID-19. People infected with the virus should receive medical treatment to relieve and alleviate the symptoms they are experiencing.