Pandemics have happened in the past. Most of us have heard about the Bubonic Plague or the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. The more we learned about a pathogen, the more we were able to fight against it, or even avoid it altogether.
The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has motivated governments to issue strict measures in an effort to contain its spread. Scientists and doctors are still working to understand everything they can about the novel coronavirus. This is the information that is currently available.
The novel coronavirus is not the same virus that causes the common cold. Coronaviruses get their name from their appearance: crown-like (corona) spikes on their surface. There are four common coronaviruses, like the ones that cause seasonal colds, and three other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS. Like SARS and MERS, the novel coronavirus jumped from infecting animals to infecting people. The virus is new in humans. That’s why we do not have a current immunity against the virus. It was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019 and has since traveled worldwide.
The coronavirus spreads from person-to-person. Respiratory droplets, like from a cough or sneeze, can transmit the virus through the air or onto surfaces. Close physical contact with people who are infected with the coronavirus seems to be how it is spread. Secondary contact from infected surfaces could also play a role in transmitting the virus. Keeping distance from other people and regularly washing your hands or sanitizing helps to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Symptoms can take anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed to the novel coronavirus. According to the CDC, the main symptoms of the disease are the following:
People who are older, or those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems, are most at risk for developing severe illness from coronavirus. Mild cases may also still experience pneumonia-like symptoms but may not need to be hospitalized for treatment.
If you are experiencing symptoms, you should call your medical provider for advice. Tests for COVID-19 are limited in many places. Emergency symptoms, like inability to breathe or chest tightness, need immediate medical attention. Call 9-1-1 right away.
There is currently no cure for the novel coronavirus. At this time, people should follow good hand hygiene and keep distance between themselves and others. Avoid people that are showing signs of illness. If you are the one who is sick, isolate yourself as much as possible from others, including your pets.
Stay home, except for going to the doctor if your medical provider has requested you to come in. Keep tissues on hand for your cough or sneezes, then throw the used tissue away in a lined trash can. Wash your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol is good, as well.
The CDC also recommends that you should wear a facemask if you are sick. You would wear a facemask if you have to have to be around other people, like when you go to the doctor. Sanitize the surfaces that you touch. Wipe down door knobs, TV remotes, tables, and chairs — anywhere that you put your hands. This can help kill the virus on surfaces and slow its spread.