What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. These range from viruses that cause the common cold, to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The latest coronavirus from China is called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This new coronavirus is different from the others and we are learning more about it every day.
How do you get infected with the novel coronavirus?
Novel coronavirus is spread by close person-to-person contact from droplets from a cough or sneeze, which can get into your mouth, nose, or lungs. Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet of another person. There aren’t many cases in the U.S., so the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus is low.
How do I know if I have novel coronavirus?
The CDC is making available a test specifically to determine whether patients have coronavirus. General testing by your healthcare provider will not identify the novel strain. Symptoms of novel coronavirus may appear in as few as 2 days, or in as many as 14 days after exposure. Symptoms can include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Call your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms and have recently traveled to China, or if you have these symptoms and have been in close personal contact with someone who has been sick with novel coronavirus. Unless your symptoms are severe, call your healthcare provider first, rather than showing up in the office or Emergency Room. When you call or visit, be sure to note your symptoms, and travel history or exposure to a person diagnosed with the virus.
If I get the novel coronavirus will I die?
Not likely, based on what we know now. The people most likely to get seriously ill from this virus are people over 60 and those with pre-existing health conditions. Currently it is estimated that for every 100 cases of 2019-nCoV, between 2 and 4 people would die. This is very different from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), where nearly 10 in 100 sick people died from the illness.
I see people in China wearing masks, should I be doing that?
No. Health officials in the U.S. do not recommend the use of masks among the general public because risk of infection is low and limited to close contacts (e.g., husband and wife). People in China, where spread is more likely, have been instructed to wear masks to prevent infecting others and to possibly prevent getting ill from close contact in crowded public spaces where someone with novel coronavirus may cough or sneeze directly on them.
What can I do to prevent getting sick from novel coronavirus?
You are at a greater risk of getting seriously ill from the influenza virus than the novel coronavirus. Get a flu shot if you haven’t already.
The following tips will help to prevent novel coronavirus as well as other respiratory viruses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least
- 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are showing symptoms of illness.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Cover your cough or sneezes with a tissue or sneeze into your elbow. Throw the tissue in the garbage and make sure to clean your hands afterwards.
- Stay home when you are sick.