You might have heard that a respiratory illness called coronavirus has sparked major concerns in China and among international health organizations. Here’s what you need to know about the virus, which has claimed several hundred lives and sickened thousands of others.
Coronaviruses aren’t new. Many different strains of coronaviruses have always been around, and generally trigger cold symptoms. Chances are good that you’ve even had a form of coronavirus in the past!
This new strain is different because it appears to be stronger, and the pneumonia that often results can be extremely dangerous. Officials aren’t sure of the exact origins of this strain of coronavirus. It is thought that it might have originated from animals and somehow began infecting people in Wuhan, China.
Symptoms appear similar to other upper respiratory infections. This particular strain of coronavirus will trigger symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms typically begin two to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. If the illness progresses to pneumonia, it could become serious. As with other illnesses, older adults and very young children are most at risk of serious complications.
It is unlikely that you will contract coronavirus (at least, this particular concerning strain). While the virus has infected several thousand people in China, only five cases have been documented in the United States. Since that number represents a tiny proportion of the overall population, it is extremely unlikely that you need to worry about coronavirus at this time. Chinese officials have taken great pains to quarantine areas where the virus has spread.
Officials warn against traveling to China. Since the vast majority of current infections are in China, federal officials are warning that this is not the best time for traveling to that area. If you had travel plans involving China, rescheduling your trip until the virus outbreak has passed could be a wise decision.
Avoid exposure to common illnesses. The best way to avoid exposure to coronavirus, as well as other common illnesses, is to simply wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your nose and eyes.