Coronavirus Facts: 10 Things You Need to Know About the Coronavirus to Keep Your Family Safe by Jane M. Orient, M.D.
As of February 4, 2020, there have been 492 deaths attributed to the coronavirus and 23,874 confirmed cases globally. Here are 10 things you need to know about the coronavirus:
1. The coronavirus family primarily affects animals. Its genetic code is RNA, not DNA. Many errors occur in transcription – these are called mutations. These affect the species of animals that can be infected, the tissues targeted by the virus, how contagious it is and how deadly. During an epidemic, the virus can change, making the disease either more or less severe.
2. About 20 percent of cases of the “common cold” are probably caused by a member of the coronavirus family. Such viruses previously were implicated in SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), which were contained.
3. The current virus is thought to have “jumped species” from bats to humans. A “wet market” in Wuhan, China, which offers freshly slaughtered exotic meat, is the possible origin. It was shut down on January 1, 2020. Wuhan was quarantined after five million people had left to celebrate the New Year with family.
4. Official figures for the spread of the virus are on an interactive map. These are only confirmed cases, and there is a severe shortage of test kits.
5. Symptoms mimic a cold or flu. There can also be digestive symptoms such as diarrhea. The most concerning is probably shortness of breath, which may signify pneumonia. Patients may need admission to an ICU and artificial ventilation.
6. There is a specific test, now available only from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is being used for persons who had contacts with people who had been in China.
7. Some antiviral drugs are being tried on an experimental basis. Vaccines are being developed. The key to stopping the epidemic is public health measures, especially quarantine.
8. Surgical masks may help prevent spread of droplets from someone who is coughing or sneezing. To protect against tiny particles that remain suspended in air, an N95 protective mask and wraparound eye protection is needed. Viruses may remain infective on surfaces for hours or days. Thorough, frequent handwashing with soap and water is critical. Usual disinfectants including alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective against this virus, but don’t skip the soap and water!
9. Alternative medicine sites offer many preparations claimed to enhance your immune system, which have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nothing can substitute for preventing exposure. It is known, however, that you need more vitamin C when under any kind of stress and that influenza season occurs when vitamin D levels are low because of lack of sunlight. The ultraviolet in sunlight is also a great disinfectant.
10. If self-isolation becomes necessary, having a reserve of food and needed medicines is essential to prevent being in a crowd seeking last-minute supplies. Plan ahead.
- The CDC website provides information on coronavirus symptoms, disease spread and other developments, but remember, this reporting is after the fact. Cases happened somewhere, perhaps in your community, before the news reached Atlanta. Communication needs to be two-way. The website tells how to contact public health authorities.
- Individuals and communities may be largely on their own in the worst case. A new book by virologist Steven Hatfill, M.D., and others, Three Seconds Until Midnight, explains the problem. Links to online resources for protecting and treating epidemic victims (whether influenza, coronavirus or other novel infections) are included in the September 2019 Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter.
The antidotes to panic are knowledge and preparedness.
The information on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information provided through this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider.
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