Health Watch

COVID-19 – What It Is and What You Can Do

The name coronavirus refers to the new type of virus discovered in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, that has spread around the globe in early 2020. Now the coronavirus is officially called SARS CoV-2, to differentiate it from other coronaviruses that have already been discovered, such as SARS in 2002. The disease caused by the coronavirus has been called COVID-19 by the World Health Organization and stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Although researchers are still trying to pinpoint what animal transmitted the disease to humans and who patient zero is, they can agree that SARS CoV-2 started in the Hubei Province of China. Because it is new, scientists are still studying it to figure out some basic characteristics of it such as how it spreads and how long it lasts on different surfaces. So far, the WHO says the virus spreads three ways: through respiratory droplets, which are spread when someone sneezes or coughs; through direct contact with someone infected with the virus; and through contact with surfaces and objects that have been infected with the virus. Based on research conducted on the previous coronavirus outbreaks of MERS and SARS, scientists’ best guess at how long the current coronavirus can survive on surfaces is nine days. It also appears the coronavirus has an incubation period of 1-14 days, during which they are contagious even if they show no symptoms of illness.


Symptoms of COVID-19, according to medical journal The Lancet, include a fever, dry cough, fatigue or muscle pain and breathing difficulties. The media has often referred to patients who are being tested for COVID-19 as having “flu-like symptoms.” Some people who contract the disease experience no symptoms or very mild symptoms. Some cases cause more severe symptoms and can lead to death. As COVID-19 progresses, it can lead to pneumonia, which can be detected on an X-ray. There are instances reported of loss of taste or smell however this has yet to be established as a mainstream indicator.

From the data available about COVID-19, it appears the most susceptible portion of the population are people over age 60 and those with chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Children appear to be the least at risk for showing signs of illness from COVID-19, which is good because they are the portion of the population who are the least capable of following advice for reducing risk of infection.

The COVID-19 Cure

Currently there is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19. The WHO’s advice for reducing your risk of infection is to clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, lathering for 20 seconds. Do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose with unwashed hands. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or the crook of your elbow when coughing or sneezing. United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in February that face masks are not effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, has further cautions for those at higher risk for catching the novel coronavirus, those over 60 and those with chronic health conditions: limit trips to highly populated places, such as grocery stores. She predicts the coronavirus will spread to many people in the next year or two because of its high rate of contagion and because the general population has no immunity built up to it yet.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advises Americans to keep at least two weeks’ worth of food, toiletries and medical supplies on hand on a normal day, and Messonnier advises those at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 to stock up on supplies now if they have not done so already.

What YOU Can Do

To reiterate, your best chances for avoiding becoming infected with the novel coronavirus are to practice social distancing, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, refrain from non-essential travel, and avoid crowds or crowded places. If you need to be around others, try to maintain good distance (a minimum of six feet was recommended by The Johns Hopkins Hospital at this time of this article’s publication.

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