Coronavirus, a respiratory illness that has the entire world nervous and on-edge, officially got a new name this week. It is now officially known as COVID-19.
Since it was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, the virus has spread to several countries, including the U.S. It has sickened tens of thousands of people and has claimed the lives of thousands. And the numbers continue to climb.
Here are important facts you need to know about the coronavirus.
Coronavirus: What Exactly Is It?
Coronavirus, is so named because of their crownlike shape. They are a large family of viruses that are common in many species of animals. There are also several coronaviruses that can infect people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These strains cause cold like symptoms that can accelerate and progress to dangerous lower respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
The virus at the center of the latest outbreak is being referred to as a new coronavirus, since it’s something that health officials have not seen before.
The cause of the latest outbreak is still under investigation. Health experts suspect that the virus originated from an animal source in Wuhan and is now spreading from person to person in China and in other countries.
Coronavirus: The Symptoms
Patients with COVID-19 have reported mild to severe symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. These usually begin two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC.
Many patients with severe complications from the virus and develop pneumonia in both lungs. As there is currently no vaccine, there have been hundreds of deaths reported worldwide.
The CDC asks all those with symptoms and a recent travel history to China to call their health care provider. The agency also has tips for what to do if you become infected with COVID-19. The virus is spread through human contact such as coughs, sneezes, coming from respiratory droplets. This virus is highly contagious
Coronavirus: Senior Citizens At The Highest Risk
Older adults are the most susceptible to catching this virus, health records show. The majority of people dying from the disease are over age 50. And, most recently, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed the first 425 people with the virus and found that the median age of patients was 59.
The reason for seniors high susceptibility is obvious says the CDC. Older people have weak immune systems, and so they’re more at risk for any type of infection causing complications. This includes other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu and pneumonia.
Therefore, it’s import ant that seniors, and of course younger age groups as well, make sure to have access to optimal care, should they become sick with the coronavirus.
The Best Way To Protect Yourself
The best way to prevent yourself from COVID-19 is to avoid exposure. Therefore, Step 1 is don’t travel to China. Travelers coming to the U.S. from China receive meticulous screenings at the airport.
Health officials also advise taking everyday steps that can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. Wash your hands often with soap and water (scrub for at least 20 seconds). Also, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap is not available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and stay away of other sick people. In addition, cover your mouth when your sneeze or cough. Coughs and sneezes do travel at high velocity to a distance of over 100 feet.
Researchers at the University of Bristol assessed the airborne survival of bacteria in aerosol droplets from coughs and sneezes.
Surprisingly, they found the average sneeze or cough can send over 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.
These germs carry viruses, such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and adenoviruses, which cause the common cold.
They can also carry bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae or Haemophilus influenzae.
The most critical time for spread of those germs, according to the researchers, is in the first few minutes after a sneeze or cough occurs.
Some other advice: Don’t be a hero, stay home when you are sick. Also, disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.