Since December, concerns about Coronavirus have dominated global news headlines. But what does the average American need to know about this newly discovered virus? Are you at risk? Are there ways to prevent transmission? Read on for answers:
What is Coronavirus Disease?
A new type of Coronavirus Disease (now called COVID‐19) was first described in Wuhan City, China in December of 2019. By January 31, 2020, the World Health Organization had declared a public health emergency of international concern. To date, there have been over 75,000 cases reported with over 2000 deaths. This equates to a death rate of around 2%, significantly higher than that for the influenza virus in the United States. COVID‐19 is caused by a virus that is similar to the infamous SARS virus. There are no specific treatments for Coronavirus Disease; supportive care is recommended for those who become ill.
How is the disease spread?
The virus is spread person to person assumed to be from respiratory droplets during close contact with an infected person (less than 6 feet), but there is much that is currently unknown about the virus. It is likely that the virus was first passed from animals to humans, but research confirms person‐to‐person transmission has occurred.
How do I know if I have Coronavirus?
People who have contracted Coronavirus report symptoms varying from mild to severe. These symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath which can occur from 2–14 days after exposure. AbsoluteCARE is conducting a 2‐question screening to determine if our patients could have been exposed and possibly contracted Coronavirus. First, we ask if a patient has recently returned from China (particularly the area around Wuhan City). Second, we ask if they have been in contact with someone who is sick or is being evaluated for this virus and has recently visited China. CDC has developed a test kit for the virus, but it is not in commercial use, and is only used in certain approved laboratories.
How do I avoid contracting Coronavirus?
There are no specific prevention measures to avoid contracting Coronavirus. General recommendations are similar to those of influenza which include avoiding contact with sick people, staying home if you are sick, wearing a facemask if you are sick, and frequent handwashing. The CDC does not recommend generalized wearing of facemasks by healthy individuals in the community.
Considerable public health efforts are underway in China, where the disease has disproportionate impact. Whole cities in the affected areas are being quarantined. A small number of cases all around the globe have been traced to cases from China.