There’s a new virus on the world scene, and it’s getting a lot of attention.
Novel coronavirus was first identified in December 2019 when many residents in Wuhan, China came down with a severe respiratory illness. All the people who initially got sick had visited a large fish and animal market. Usually, viruses which infect animals don’t also infect humans, but rarely a virus may change just enough to infect people, becoming a new or “novel” virus. People spread the new virus to other people through sneezes, coughs, and droplets. That’s probably what happened with novel CoV.
Usually coronaviruses are no big deal. Most people don’t know that coronaviruses cause a large percent of the common cold. If you happen to have an electron microscope, it’s easy to pick out a coronavirus – it’s the one whose outer coat looks like a crown or halo, thus the name “corona”. There are 7 different types of coronavirus. The most notorious is SARS which appeared in 2003 and was fatal for about 10% of the 8000 people infected with the virus.
Symptoms of coronavirus infection range from mild to severe cold — fever, cough, and shortness of breath. When someone is infected, it takes 2 – 14 days for symptoms to appear. Today, all the people in the US sickened by novel CoV had some connection with a person who traveled to Wuhan, China. People who have not had close contact with someone who recently traveled to China are unlikely to get infected.
While this new virus is a definite health concern, simple precautions can help prevent the spread of it and ALL viruses: wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes. Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, stay home when sick and avoid sick contacts. Surgical masks may help decrease the spread of droplets for someone who is sick, but don’t help to protect someone who is well. There is no vaccination for this virus.
There is, however, a vaccination for influenza. One in ten people will get influenza during the flu season and one in 1000 of those will die. Today, you are much more likely to become ill from influenza than from novel CoV. It is NOT too late to get a flu shot.
For more facts on this coronavirus, take a look at our previous post.
Joanne M. Fruth, MD, FAAFP
Dr. Fruth is a family physician with a mission to promote the benefits of primary care and especially Family Medicine (#FMrevolution). As Medical Director at Avance Care, Dr. Fruth uses her years of experience and passion for teaching to inspire other clinicians to make each primary care visit one which builds the foundation good health
Dr. Fruth loves hiking, trips to Broadway and seeking adventure (or a quiet evening) with her emergency physician husband. She has three adult children on their own missions to make the world a better place.