- Common signs of infection of the new coronavirus include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.
- The risk of contracting the disease in the U.S. remains low, but if you’re worried there are simple steps to take.
- Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.
If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve surely heard about the new coronavirus, a new strain of virus that’s sweeping across China and spreading to other parts of the world.
While historically coronaviruses cause little need for alarm (they’re usually the culprits behind the common cold), there are three strains that have developed in the last 20 years, including this most recent strain — the 2019-nCoV — which are causing serious illnesses, respiratory issues, respiratory failure, and even death.
Another example of a serious coronavirus is SARS, but it’s important to note that the 2019-nCoV is not the same as SARS.
Today the World Health Organization announced it was declaring a public health emergency of international concern due to the spreading virus.
To better prepare yourself, and to keep up-to-date on what you need to know, we reached out to experts to help shed light on what you can do to protect yourself against the most recent coronavirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, “coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals.”
The CDC says that rarely does the animal coronavirus infect people.
However, this most current strain is a new respiratory virus that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, which has been infecting people.
The World Health OrganizationTrusted Source says that common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. Rarer, more severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and in the most extreme, death.
Symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days, or as long as 14, after exposure.
Like previous coronaviruses, this particular virus likely emerged from an animal source, though experts aren’t sure which one as of yet.
Now the virus is being spread from person to person. Typically coronavirus infections are a transmissible person to person only once someone infected is showing symptoms, however, the Chinese health minister is indicating that this particular strain may be infectious when people aren’t yet sick.
While there’s no vaccine to prevent the 2019-nCoV infection, there are still things you can do to protect yourself.
“The best protection is hand washing and being mindful of contact with a person’s face,” said Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of global health for Northwell Health and The Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New York.
“The most common way viruses like these are spread is from droplets, or little particles of viruses, that land on a surface that another person touches and then spreads, usually by touching their face or eating,” he said.
The CDC recommends:
- Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. An alcohol-based sanitizer can work in the absence of soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- Cover your mouth when you cough, or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.