Last week, the World Health Organization declared a global emergency as the novel coronavirus continues to spread rapidly and with ease around the world. In only 10 days, the total of confirmed cases rose from 916 and 41 deaths to a staggering 24,622 cases and 494 deaths. Within the last 48-hours alone, approximately 7,000 new cases and 132 deaths have been reported.
Multiple countries have enacted travel bans restricting flights to China to reduce the spread of the virus overseas and across the Asian continent. On February 2, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory warning all Americans not to travel to China due to the outbreak. United States officials have recently declared a public health emergency after three more cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in California this morning, raising the nationwide total to 11 infected patients.
As the reports continue to roll in surrounding the novel coronavirus outbreak, Americans have entered a full-blown panic mode; every fever, runny nose, or cough sparks concern; parents are afraid to bring their children to public places; hospitals across the country are limiting visitors. With all media outlets releasing their own spin on the outbreak, it can be difficult to determine what is fact, what is speculation, and what is pure controversy - don’t panic.
As safety and health advocates, we believe it’s crucial to stay informed about your health and the policies and issues that could affect it. These are the facts you need to know about novel coronavirus and the credible resources you can use to stay updated on the outbreak.
What Is The Coronavirus?
Novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCov, is a respiratory illness in humans that can lead to life-threatening health conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Originating in Wuhan, China back in December 2019, novel coronavirus has spread at an accelerated rate across Mainland China, sparking a travel lockdown of over 35 million residents and trapping hundreds of travelers from across the globe. Chinese officials believe the virus originated in a ’wet market’- a traditional Chinese food market where animals are freshly slaughtered for purchase and the risk for cross contamination is high.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), novel coronavirus is a part of a large family of viruses affecting the respiratory system. A novel (new) coronavirus is a virus that has not yet circulated among humans. At this time, global health officials report it’s still unclear as to how the virus spreads and mutates. In most cases, it appears person-to-person transmission has occurred when someone is within 6-feet of an infected person through respiratory droplets produced from sneezing and coughing. Two cases of person-to-person exposure have been reported in the United States to date.
Most coronaviruses result in only minor respiratory symptoms. However, two strains in recent history have proven to be more deadly: SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). These two coronaviruses collectively resulted in 1,056 deaths worldwide. Comparably, global health officials report the novel virus is spreading faster than both strains.
How Far Has It Spread?
According to Johns Hopkins University’s Heat Map following novel coronavirus activity throughout the world, 24,622 confirmed cases and 494 deaths have been reported as of February 5, approximately around 11:30 a.m. The informative tool shows live updates of all countries who have reported coronavirus activity, even recording the number of patients who have already recovered the virus.
The bulk of novel coronavirus cases (24,397) is centralized in Mainland China. Since the outbreak was confirmed in December 2019, the virus has spread to 27 countries, including:
- Singapore (28)
- Thailand (25)
- Japan (22)
- Hong Kong (21)
- South Korea (19)
- Australia (13)
- Germany (12)
- Malaysia (12)
- United States (11)
- Taiwan (11)
- Macau (10)
- Vietnam (8)
- France (6)
- United Arab Emirates (5)
- Canada (4)
- India (3)
- Italy, Russia, Philippines, UK (2 cases each)
- Nepal, Belgium, Cambodia, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Sri Lanka (1 case each)
What Are The Symptoms & Risks
Symptoms of novel coronavirus range in severity depending on the person. The most common symptoms reported include:
- shortness of breath
Infected patients have also reported experiencing cold and flu-like symptoms such as a headache, runny nose, or sore throat. The incubation period of the novel coronavirus appears to be most similar to MERS, appearing in two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
Individuals who are at risk for contracting the novel coronavirus include:
- travelers who have recently visited Mainland China or other areas affected by the outbreak;
- travelers who frequent international airports where flights from Mainland China arrive; and
- individuals who have come in contact with someone who has been officially diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
Myths To Forget
Last week, several social media platforms came under fire for allowing harmful information to circulate about novel coronavirus. The B.B.C. reported Facebook, TikTok, and Google removed links, news reports, and false claims from individuals saying they contracted the virus. However, if history is any indication, we can predict there will be many more false stories and claims to come.
Despite what you see on the news and in social media, these are some of the most common myths busted by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) that everyone should know (ALL INFORMATION AND ADVICE BELOW IS PROVIDED BY W.H.O. - NOT D’AMORE PERSONAL INJURY LAW):
- It’s not safe to receive a letter or package from China: People who receive packages from China are not at risk for contracting the novel virus as studies have shown the virus does not survive long on objects such as paper products.
- Pets can spread novel coronavirus: At this time, novel coronavirus cannot infect animals such as dogs and cats.
- Vaccines will protect you against the new coronavirus: Vaccines take time to develop, and there is no current vaccine that will protect you from contracting novel coronavirus or the serious symptoms related to it.
- Rinsing your nose with saline will prevent novel coronavirus: There is limited evidence to show rinsing your nose with saline solution can help to prevent colds. However, there is no evidence that nose rinsing can prevent respiratory infections such as novel coronavirus.
- Mouthwash can prevent novel coronavirus: There is no evidence that using mouthwash will protect you from novel coronavirus or other respiratory infections, even though some brands have been proven to eliminate certain microbes in saliva.
- Eating garlic can prevent novel coronavirus: Studies have shown that garlic may have antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence that garlic prevents novel coronavirus.
- Putting chemicals and oils on your skin can block the novel virus: This dangerous myth has led some people to ingest bleach-based products. At this time, there is no research to show that cleaning products such as bleach or chlorine-based disinfectants, or any type oils, have an impact on blocking your body from novel coronavirus. Do not try these methods as they could be dangerous and deadly.
- Novel coronavirus is only deadly to babies and old people: Novel coronavirus can be deadly for all ages. However, people over 65, people with pre-existing conditions, and infants are more likely to experience severe symptoms.
- Antibiotics can prevent novel coronavirus: Novel coronavirus is viral, not bacterial. Therefore, antibiotics will not be effective in preventing or treating the virus.
- There is a special medicine available to cure novel coronavirus: No, this is not true. To date, there is no specific medication you can take that will prevent or treat the novel coronavirus. Any claims otherwise could be a scam.
What To Do
There are currently only 11 cases in the United States of the coronavirus. So chances are if you see someone coughing or sneezing, they most likely have the flu or a cold. The C.D.C. recommends the following prevention steps to reduce your chances of coming in contact with the virus:
- Stay informed by checking in with credible sources on updates about the coronavirus.
- Take everyday safety precautions to prevent the spread of all respiratory infections: avoid close contact with sick people, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, stay home if you are sick, disinfect surfaces.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid all unnecessary travel to China.
- If you know someone who has recently returned from the Wuhan or surrounding infected areas of China, respectively inquire about their health.
If you are experiencing symptoms of novel coronavirus, and have traveled to China or were in close contact with someone who recently traveled to an area with an active outbreak, call your doctor or local emergency room ahead of time before arriving.
For more information on novel coronavirus, visit these credible resources below:
- Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus Heat Map
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
- World Health Organization: Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak
Stay safe and healthy, Maryland.
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