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With news of a contagious coronavirus spreading, you may be worried that your family could be affected. “There are still some things we’re learning about the new, novel coronavirus identified from Wuhan, China, but at this time, infections are limited to people who traveled to this area or were exposed to others with the virus,” says Dr. Vincent Hsu, Director for Infection Prevention at AdventHealth.
The novel coronavirus, discovered in China in late 2019, is part of the human coronavirus family. While the current risk of contracting the illness is relatively low, here’s what you need to know about this condition and its symptoms.
What is Human Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. “They are common throughout the world and usually cause mild illness, like the common cold,” says Dr. Hsu.
Common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. At the onset of the illness, symptoms may include:
- A general feeling of being unwell
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
Without treatment, the virus can become more severe, leading to lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. To confirm presence of the illness, doctors will typically order laboratory tests on respiratory specimens and blood.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
You’re likely familiar with previous coronavirus outbreaks include MERS (MERS-CoV) and SARS (SARS-CoV). Research shows that coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- The air by coughing and sneezing
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
- Fecal contamination (rarely)
Where Did The Novel Coronavirus Come From?
In late 2019, the illness was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. As of January 273, 2020, there have been more than 2,700 confirmed cases and 82 reported deaths in mainland China, but only 5 cases have been found in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring the spread of this virus.
I Have the Symptoms Listed Above. Do I Have Coronavirus?
Most people with respiratory symptoms do not have the virus. If you did not travel to China recently, there is little risk of infection. It’s more likely that you’re experiencing symptoms of the flu, RSV or other respiratory viruses that are common. However, if you did travel to a region impacted by the Wuhan Coronavirus, you should visit an emergency room near you as soon as possible. When you see any provider, clinic or emergency room, wear a surgical mask and let them know about your travel history.
Keep Your Family Healthy
You can protect yourself and others by washing your hands frequently or using alcohol-based sanitizer. You should also take precautions to avoid individuals who may be sick. If you or a loved one have severe respiratory symptoms, you should see a physician or visit an emergency room near you.
It’s normal to have concerns for your family’s health and safety. While you can take steps to protect yourself from the virus, such as practicing good hygiene, know that the AdventHealth care team is here for you.