At least 26 of the greater than 900 people who have been infected with what is known as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus have died; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that the second known infection in the United States has been detected in Illinois — which leads to the question: should you be concerned about coronavirus?
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS. Past MERS and SARS outbreaks have been complex, requiring comprehensive public health responses”, according to this summary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “When person-to-person spread has occurred with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of MERS and SARS between people has generally occurred between close contacts. Past MERS and SARS outbreaks have been complex, requiring comprehensive public health responses.”
Several known coronaviruses infect people and usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold — but officials at both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are concerned about this latest outbreak.
The summary continues with how early on, “many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, suggesting person-to-person spread is occurring. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.”
Avoid contact with sick people — especially those who have a fever or are coughing.
Avoid handling live or dead animals, animal markets, and products which come from animals — such as uncooked meat. Avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.
Avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices
Older travelers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to Wuhan with their healthcare provider.
Already traveled to Wuhan and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:
Seek medical care immediately. Before you go to a doctor’s office, emergency room, or other health care provider, call ahead and share with them your recent travel, your previous travel history, and your symptoms.
Avoid contact with others.
Not travel while sick.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve — not with your hands — when coughing or sneezing; and immediately dispose of the tissue and wash your hands thoroughly.
Although the media has been constantly ensuring public awareness of the potential outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, I believe that the way the public is being informed is being blown out of proportion to the point of sensationalism and — in some cases — fear mongering.
Do not panic. If you are concerned about the possibility of being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, all you need to do is take the aforementioned simple precautions to reduce — or even eliminate — your risk of contracting the virus as you would with other germs and viruses.