The word epidemic can strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. And with so many questions around the latest health scare about a pneumonia-causing virus in Wuhan, China, we pulled together some important information to help you understand exactly what the ‘Coronavirus’ or 2019-nCoV really is and how to protect your family from it.
What is the coronavirus ?
A ‘coronavirus’ is actually quite common and you’ve likely been infected with one before. Lots of times before. The reason is that coronavirus is actually a cluster of viruses that cause illness as familiar as the common cold and the flu but it also causes MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The problem with 2019-nCoV, the strain that appeared in Wuhan, China, is that it is a brand new strain with lots of unanswered questions.
How is it transmitted human to human?
The virus is highly contagious and is spread the way other colds and the flu are spread, coughing, sneezing, and touching. It was apparently a strain that only affected animals but made the animal to human jump. Scientists do not know how long a person can be contagious after coming into contact with 2019-nCoV but the current thought is that the virus has a 10 to 14 day incubation period, which could explain why it is seeming to spread so quickly.
How to prevent it?
By disinfecting commonly used surfaces like door handles, faucets, toilet flushers, light plates, phones, and remote controls, combined with washing hands regularly with warm water and soap is enough to keep the virus at bay. Also, if you are sick, seek immediate medical attention, wear a mask to protect yourself and those around you. Do not go to work or school or other public places.
Is there a 2019-nCoV vaccine yet?
No. The strain is too new for scientists to be able to respond immediately with a vaccine. But that doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t racing to create one. Vaccines, even when fast-tracked in the face of an epidemic still require time and testing. Developing a vaccine can get incredibly complicated incredibly fast.
Who is at risk?
Just like the common cold or flu, anyone who comes in contact with an infected patient is at risk for becoming infected as well. That said, the very young, the elderly, and those with weakened or compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms for 2019-nCoV include:
- difficulty breathing
- shortness of breath
The virus can advance into pneumonia symptoms, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), kidney failure, and death.
Where is the outbreak right now?
The bulk of the outbreak is in Wuhan, China as well as surrounding cities. The virus has crossed borders, however, and it is now in the United States with 5 confirmed cases. Each of the patients is in isolation with round the clock medical care.
The CDC reported that the five patients are located in Arizona, California, Washington, and Illinois.
So far, 81 patients in China have died and 800 others have tested positive for the virus.
What is the US doing about it?
The United States, as well as several other country’s, has set up screening at major airports to identify and quarantine any suspected cases of 2019-nCoV.