A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous. Yet some become serious like the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) seen in 2014 and before that, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) back in 2003. Each one killing about a thousand people. After an outbreak in December in China, the WHO identified a new type: 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Since then, it’s become a pandemic affecting thousands worldwide.
Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s. We don’t know where they came from. They get their name from their crown-like shape. Symptoms of a coronavirus are similar to the flu (body aches, fever, and severe acute respiratory syndrome). Similar to the flu, when the virus gets into the lungs it can cause pneumonia – and sometimes be deadly.
What makes this new coronavirus so dangerous is that it’s another flu-like illness that our bodies are not prepared to fight off well – there’s been no vaccine yet developed and any anti-flu medications are not known to help.
An encouraging report came last week from the medical journal Lancet. They described the 1st person – person transmission in the US when a woman gave it to her husband who also had COPD. They tested 350 casual contacts and none of them tested positive. Their conclusion: “These data suggest that person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 might be most likely to occur through unprotected, prolonged exposure to a patient with symptomatic COVID-19.”
An Israeli virologist (a person who studies viruses) released a statement this week. Here are some highlights:
- The virus is not airborne, most people who are infected will recover without even knowing they were sick.
- The global panic is unnecessary and exaggerated, we have to calm people down.
- It’s not in the air as we are talking about a virus that is not airborne. Infection is by droplet transmission, so only if you are close to someone who has the virus and you get the saliva when he sneezes or coughs, then you can you get ill.
- The virus does not appear too intelligent unlike the flu which is very intelligent, which changes and adapts.
We all need to be wary and pay attention to the news reports and use contagious precautions such as strict hygiene. Listen to the morning show with Dave Priest (WRNN 99.5 FM) which will give you all the updated information about the virus. Better access to testing is on the way. At the same time, let’s not get caught up in the hysteria, because relatively speaking, the Influenza is much more common and dangerous – this year it will kill up to 60K people in the US and 650K people worldwide (according to the CDC and WHO respectively).
The media hype and the governmental responses are out of proportion to the public health risk. But the cat’s already out of the bag and we have to cope with all the shut downs, remain patient, and work together. The majority of us have made it through other recent infectious disease outbreaks: H1N1 / Swine Flu, Cholera, the Plague, Ebola, the Zika virus, Mad Cow Disease, and so will this cycle through and soon pass. Don’t panic – just please leave some toilet paper on the shelf for your neighbor!