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What should I know about Coronavirus?

The nCoV-2019 virus, or “the coronavirus,” has quickly gained notoriety across the world as a dangerous and highly infectious disease. The virus has been growing as a heavily shared topic on social media, major news organizations, and among healthcare expert panels. The initial reports on the virus can be intimidating and scary, but it is important to realize that that coronavirus is not likely to impact you.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China where residents got the virus from contaminated animal markets as well as reservoirs that bred the virus. Soon, international travelers from the U.S, U.K, and other countries had contracted the virus and were soon quarantined by international and federal agencies.

Consistent updates from news organizations and healthcare officials can be helpful to let patients know how the virus is being contained. However, without proper context patients may fail to understand their actual risks. Here is what you should know so far about nCoV-2019.

What is a coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a general term for viruses that are spread between multiple animal species. According to the CDC, coronaviruses are “a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS, and now with 2019-nCoV.”

Coronaviruses can lead to debilitating symptoms such as difficulty breathing, congestion, nausea, and fever. However, a coronavirus can cause fatal symptoms in patients. Currently, patients that have been diagnosed with nCoV-2019 have experienced asphyxiation and other lethal symptoms. Patients that have the current coronavirus will need to be quarantined and triaged by emergency medical providers.

How did the coronavirus spread?

CDC officials and public health organizations including the World Health Organization found that travelers from the U.S contracted the virus through airborne and person-to-person respiratory infection. Travelers then came back from China and infected areas to the United States, who were then found to have 2019-nCoV. 

Currently, patients coming back to the United States are screened for the virus and appropriately quarantined.

Am I at risk for the coronavirus? Is it spreading in the United States? 

The short answer is no: the coronavirus has only affected 11 people with 232 cases under investigation. Those 11 individuals are also quarantined while the investigated cases are also isolated from public communities. 

As the CDC explains, “imported cases of 2019-nCoV infection in travelers have been detected in the U.S. Person-to-person spread of 2019-nCoV also has been seen among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan, but at this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.” Additionally, the U.S government and health officials have implemented crisis action plans in the event that the virus spreads outside of quarantine zones. 

It is crucial that you continue to follow updates from local healthcare organizations to understand the actual scope and severity of the virus, avoid misinformation, and ensure you know how to protect yourself.