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30 March, 2020 00:00 00 AM

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What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

verywellhealth
What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COLLEEN DOHERTY, MD
 
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak
COVID-19 is a new type of coronavirus, a common family of viruses, which surfaced in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019. This particular type is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2.1 Similar to MERS and SARS, this coronavirus likely jumped from an animal (probably a bat, although scientists are not completely certain) to a human, perhaps via some other species.

The symptoms of COVID-19 appear two to fourteen days after exposure. They may include:
fever
cough
trouble breathing
It appears that while the infection is mild in some people, it can cause a severe respiratory (lung) illness similar to SARS and may result in death. It may also cause complications like pneumonia or bronchitis.

These complications are more common in babies and the elderly, as well as people with a suppressed immune system or an underlying heart or lung disease.

The World Health Organization has decided COVID-19 is globally widespread enough to be considered a pandemic.3 This is because the virus is new, so people's immune systems are not prepared to fight it, thus permitting the virus to spread rapidly from person to person.
The interactive map below shows the current extent to which COVID-19 has spread globally. It highlights the total number of cases that have been confirmed in affected countries.

According to the CDC, those who are at higher risk include:
close contacts of and healthcare workers caring for people with COVID-19
people returning from international destinations where community spread of the virus is occurring (China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy)

COVID-19 Transmission
As COVID-19 is still a new virus, understanding its transmission is based on similar coronaviruses.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person.4 You’re most at risk:
If you’re in close contact (within about six feet) with an infected person
If you’re exposed to respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes

If a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touches their own mouth, nose, and possibly eyes, they may contract COVID-19, but the CDC says it’s not the main way the virus spreads.

High-Risk Groups
Based on how COVID-19 affected those in China, it seems the following groups have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if contracting the virus:
Older adults
People with lung disease
People with heart disease
People with diabetes

People in these groups—or anyone with a chronic medical condition—should take extra precautions to avoid those who are sick, avoid non-essential travel, and avoid crowds. Stay home as much as possible if your area is experiencing community spread, and seek medical attention at the earliest symptoms.

Diagnosis
With the new concern for COVID-19 infections, symptomatic patients and their doctors have to be careful to obtain a travel history to China or other infected regions, or a history of contacts with other people who may have been exposed.

A laboratory test produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently being used for COVID-19 testing in the United States. This test requires a swab from the patient's nose or throat and is available at CDC-designated locations in the United States and qualified international laboratories.

What to Know About Coronavirus (COVID-19) Diagnosis
The diagnosis of a routine coronavirus infection (cold symptoms) involves a medical history, including travel history, and a physical examination. Most often, the patient will be diagnosed with a cold, and sent home.
If your symptoms are severe, your healthcare team may order tests to specifically check for the virus. This is done by taking a sample of your blood and/or a swab from your nose or throat.

If you think you may be sick but haven't received a diagnosis yet, use our printable Doctor Discussion Guide below to help prepare you for talking with your healthcare team.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.
Download PDF
Email the Guide
Send to yourself or a loved one.

Treatment
There is no vaccine or specific medicine to treat coronavirus. Instead, the treatment for mild coronavirus infections is supportive, which means doing things to ease your symptoms.

These supportive measures may include:
Taking a medication, like Tylenol (acetaminophen), to reduce your fever
Using a cool-mist humidifier to help soothe your cough
Rest
Drinking fluids

Important Note
Do not give your child or teenager aspirin or aspirin-containing products due to their risk of Reye syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.

SARS, MERS, and illnesses caused by COVID-19 also require supportive care, of a different type: hospitalization, oxygen, fluids, and other life-saving treatment may be necessary to support the patient while the immune system responds to, and clears, the infection.

Antiviral medicines shown to suppress or destroy coronaviruses are not currently commercially available.  
Treating Symptoms of the Common Cold and Flu

Prevention
You can reduce your risk of contracting human coronavirus by doing what you would do to protect yourself from getting the flu or common cold:
Scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (try singing the Happy Birthday song twice for proper timing)
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Avoid being around people who are sick

Using a regular household detergent and water, clean household and work surfaces and objects frequently, especially ones that are touched a lot, such as doorknobs, remote controls, and tables.

If you are sick, protect others by staying home from work or school. If you live with others, choose and clean a room and bathroom that only you use (if possible).

If you do cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, and then wash your hands after discarding the tissue. Alternatively, if you do not have a tissue available, sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow.
Tips for Preventing Colds and the Flu
What are Coronaviruses?
Coronavirus is a common family of viruses named for its appearance of having a crown (corona in Latin means "crown"). The crown is composed of a protein, called the spike protein, that sticks out from the virus's surface.

There are different types of coronaviruses, and while the majority typically cause mild cold symptoms (e.g., runny nose or sore throat), more dangerous types, like the coronaviruses that cause Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), may cause more severe disease, including pneumonia, and even death.

Coronaviruses can spread from person to person by the following forms of contact:
Droplets (after someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes)
Touch (e.g., shaking hands with an infected person or touching an object that contains the virus and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose prior to washing your hands)
Feces (fecal-oral spread from infected patients; rare)
It is impossible to tell the difference between coronavirus infections and other illnesses based on symptoms alone. While doctors need to take a careful history and perform a physical exam, laboratory tests are needed to accurately diagnose coronavirus infections.

At this time, there are no medicines a person can take to prevent or treat the virus itself. Treatment for coronavirus infections is supportive, which means that the patient is supported while the infection runs its course and the body’s immune system clears the infection.

Types of Coronavirus
Coronaviruses belong to the family Coronaviridae, and there are seven types that can infect humans.
Four common types of human coronaviruses cause symptoms of the common cold.

These four coronaviruses—229E, NL63, OC43, HKU1—are often referred to as community-acquired coronaviruses because they are common and infect people all over the world.

The other three coronaviruses are more worrisome because they have been linked to severe complications, like pneumonia and death.

These three coronaviruses include:
2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19, originally called 2019-nCOV)
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV)

MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV
These serious types of coronaviruses jumped from animals to humans, and are potentially life-threatening.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MERS-CoV usually causes fever, cough, and trouble breathing, which often then leads to pneumonia.
SARS-CoV causes a similar illness of fever, chills, body aches, and respiratory infection which can be fatal.
There are still cases of MERS, mostly in the Arabian peninsula. There have been no cases of SARS in the world since 2004.

A word from verywell
Coronavirus is a common virus that infects people at least once over the course of their lifetime. The good news is that in most cases, it causes a mild, run-of-the-mill "cold." If your symptoms are severe or persistent, or if you have an underlying medical condition, be sure to see your doctor.

The COVID-19 coronavirus is concerning because of the potential for spreading globally, and because it can cause severe symptoms. As more information is gathered on this infection, we hope to remain a resource for you so you can get the information you need.

If you are worried that you may have been exposed to this newly-described virus (e.g., if you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or living in a community where person-to-person spread has been reported) and have developed symptoms, please call your doctor promptly for further guidance.

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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