What is Coronavirus?

What is Coronavirus?

“Coronaviruses” are nothing new. Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).  This specific strain started being called “2019-nCoV” and is now designated “COVID-19”.

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted by aerosolized droplets (e.g. the droplets you release when you cough or sneeze), much like the flu or a common cold.   It may also be transmitted via fecal matter (even very small/invisible amounts). The virus can survive for some amount of time outside the human body, although the specific parameters are not yet known, so the transmission can occur by touching a surface contaminated with the virus and then touching your eyes/nose/mouth.

According to a study by the CDC in about 80% of cases, symptoms are mild and look a lot like the flu. These cases generally self-resolve with little to no medical intervention. About 13% of cases develop severe symptoms (including pneumonia or shortness of breath). This category of cases will require medical care, but probably not intensive care. About 5% develop critical symptoms (shock, respiratory failure, etc). This category of cases will require care in an ICU or similar.  Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

What can I do to protect myself?
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of infection.  These practices will also help flatten the curve of infection rate and prevent area hospitals from hitting capacity. 
Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth. 
– Cough and sneeze into your elbow or tissue that is disposed of immediately.
Keep your distance!  Staying 1-2 meters away from other people reduces the likelihood of transmission.  Avoid large gatherings.
If you feel sick, stay at home. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, call your doctor and follow the advice of your local health authority. 
Source World Health Organization (WHO)

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