What Is Coronavirus and Should I Be Worried?

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
January 23, 2020
What is Coronavirus?

A few weeks ago, a mystery illness caused almost 60 people in Wuhan, China to fall ill. The virus has since been identified as coronavirus, and it’s spreading throughout Asia and has now reached the United States. 

What Is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of seven viruses that spread among mammals, including humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Generally, these viruses affect the respiratory tract but can also cause problems for the gut. Typical symptoms include runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. Severity varies among the different strains, with some as mild as a common cold and others causing antibiotic-resistant pneumonia. Two examples of the coronavirus which have evolved from mammals into serious illnesses that affect humans are severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (or SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (or MERS).

The recent outbreak began in a seafood and poultry market located in Wuhan, China and involves a new strain of coronavirus called 2019-nCOV. Although some experts consider this new strain to be a cousin of SARS, it has yet to be seen if it will be as severe or as contagious as SARS. At this point, about 300 cases have been reported (260 in Wuhan) and 17 people have died. 

According to the CDC, preliminary reports suggest that older adults with underlying medical conditions may be at increased risk for becoming severely ill.

“Some people infected with coronavirus have gotten very sick, while others with milder cases have recovered uneventfully,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “It’s important to pay attention to the path of the outbreak and recognize symptoms, especially if you’re traveling.”

Coronavirus Symptoms

Standard symptoms of 2019-nCOV so far have been fever, runny nose, sore throat and respiratory symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath and rapid breathing, according to the Australian Government Department of Health. Some patients also reported vomiting and diarrhea.  

How to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus

Since the virus seems to be transmitted via human to human contact, the CDC suggests the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

“If you’re concerned that you’ve come into contact with coronavirus, contact your doctor immediately,” Kaminetsky says. If you need physician, consider partnering with MDVIP. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health »

LAST UPDATE: February 17, 2020. 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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