The Coronavirus

The coronavirus has taken the world by storm in what seems like a matter of days, igniting global fear and concern. From spreading myths and increasing death tolls, the virus has captured the attention of the whole world. Here are some things you need to know about the origin of the virus, its symptoms, and what you can do to stay safe.

Coronaviruses, according to the World Health Organization, are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. They are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals, such as bats, cattle, and cats, and people. The new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, was first detected in China and has spread throughout the world. The first cases were at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, and had a link to a seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, since these initial cases, person-to-person spread has been detected in numerous patients. In late January, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a “public health emergency of international concern. It is now a pandemic

Common signs of infection include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death. There is currently no vaccine or antiviral medication to prevent or treat COVID-19. Those who are affected may or may not need hospitalization. Scientists are rushing to develop a vaccine or medication to battle COVID-19, but it will likely be a while before these drugs become available to the public. Specific drug treatments and vaccines are undergoing investigation through clinical trials. Quarantines, school closings, and the cancellation of large gatherings are just some of the measures put in place by other countries to prevent further spread of the disease. Some states have declared a state of emergency to approve funds to fight the disease. Thus far, most information suggests that most COVID-19 cases are mild, yet a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Those who are at higher risk of serious illness include elderly people and people with underlying health conditions.

Despite the frightening nature of the disease and its easy spread, the Centers for Disease Control recommend the following basic measures to protect from the virus:

  • Wash your hands frequently, with warm water and soap. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a sleeve- covered elbow or tissue.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Distance yourself from those who are sick.
  • Call the doctor if you are experiencing fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Illness due to COVID-19 is generally mild, yet it can cause serious respiratory illness. In order to protect ourselves and our communities, following local health department or CDC guidelines are important. Everyone can do their part to help respond to this public health threat. Make sure you learn how to protect yourself and others, and keep yourself informed on the current global crisis.

The CDC is posting updates regularly on their website If traveling out of the U.S. refer to the CDC’s Travel Alerts, advice and resources.