What is a coronavirus?

A coronavirus (designated as CoV) is a member of a large family of viruses which cause illness in humans or animals. Previously discovered variants cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to MERS and SARS.

The current coronavirus outbreak, designated SARS-CoV-2, is a betacoronavirus similar to MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19, more commonly called just coronavirus, is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Prior to December 2019, this new virus and the associated disease were unknown.

The name derives from a combination of abbreviations: CO (corona), VI (virus), D (disease). The designation given the virus itself is “2019-nCoV”, short for “2019 novel coronavirus”.

Where did it begin?

The original outbreak centered in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Many patients had links to a large seafood and live-animal market. This strongly implied an animal-to-human spread, guiding initial research. As time passed, a growing percentage of patients had no links to such locations, suggesting a mutation to allow person-to-person spread. This spread continued outside China, including the United States.

Recently, some areas have begun to show apparent community spread. This phenomenon (community spread) can be defined as infection in people with no apparent origin, and no knowledge of the source of exposure.

How does it spread?

Current theories about the spread of COVID-19 center around person-to-person contact, though other means of transmission are thought to be possible. Person-to-person transmission generally occurs in close contact (within six feet), through respiratory droplets produced by infected persons sneezing or coughing. These droplets land on objects and surfaces and act as transmission vectors. Touching these objects, then touching eyes, nose, or mouth, can lead to infection.

At present, the WHO believes that COVID-19 is not airborne and that risk of transmission through fecal material is lower than through respiratory droplets.

How far has the coronavirus outbreak reach? How many have been infected, and how many have died?

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports 125048 confirmed cases as of March 12, 2020. A total of 117 of 195 countries worldwide have reported verified cases, with most of those (80981, or 64.76%) reported in China.

The global death doll that same date reached 4613 (a 3.69% fatality rate), 3173 of which occurred in China (68.78% of fatalities, with a 3.92% fatality rate).

The WHO releases situation reports daily, which can be viewed online.

What about coronavirus in the United States?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports 1215 verified cases in the United States. Of those, thirty-six (36) resulted in fatalities (a 2.96% fatality rate) to date.

The CDC updates this information at noon on weekdays, and it can be viewed online.

What about the Tri-State Area and its surroundings?

March 12th, 2020, the following states in the immediate area report as indicated.

Pennsylvania: Sixteen (16) verified cases exist. Community transmission remains unverified.
New Jersey: Twenty-three (23) verified cases exist. Community transmission remains unverified.
New York: Two hundred and seventeen (217) verified cases exist. Community transmission has been verified.
Maryland: Twelve (12) verified cases exist. Community transmission remains unverified.
Virginia: Fifteen (15) verified cases exist. Community transmission remains unverified.
West Virginia: No verified cases exist.

What are the symptoms?

Most symptoms of COVID-19 first appear from two (2) to fourteen (14) days after initial exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough, tiredness, and shortness of breath. In some cases, coronavirus can appear to be another health issue: fatigue, flu, the common cold, pneumonia, etc.

Some patients develop additional symptoms, including nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, aches, pains, and diarrhea. In others, the infection carries no noticeable ill effects, though it can still be spread to others.

How is it treated?

Most patients (approximately four in five) recover without requiring any special treatment. A smaller number (one in six) become seriously ill, developing difficulty breathing. Those with underlying medical conditions (such as diabetes, heart problems, or high blood pressure) are at greater risk of serious illness.

Any individual with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How do I protect myself from coronavirus?

Currently, no vaccine exists to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Likewise, antibiotics are not effective against viruses, such as the coranivirus responsible for COVID-19. However, specific drug treatments and potential vaccines are under investigation by the WHO and other organizations.

Taking appropriate precautions can reduce the chances of becoming infected, or of spreading COVID-19.

  • Regularly and thoroughly washing hands with hot water and soap, or with alcohol-based rubs.
  • Maintaining a minimum three (3) foot distance between yourself and anyone sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid touching mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Follow good respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or a bent elbow when sneezing or coughing.
  • If you feel unwell, stay home.
  • If you have difficulty breathing, fever, and cough seek medical attention and call your provider in advance before an office visit so preparations can be made and precautions observed.
  • Remain informed on the latest coronavirus hot spots (areas where COVID-19 is widespread). Avoiding traveling to such places if possible.

All contents of this article were gleaned from the web sites for the WHO and the CDC. We encourage readers who want to know even more to visit those sites directly.

WHO Web Site

CDC Web Site