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Since its discovery in December 2019 in mainland China, authorities have identified thousands of human infections worldwide and novel coronavirus infections have been confirmed in numerous travelers in the United States and a growing list of countries internationally.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Many of them infect animals, but some coronaviruses from animals can evolve (change) into a new human coronavirus that can spread from person-to-person. This is what happened with the current novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Diseases from coronaviruses in people typically cause mild to moderate illness, like the common cold. Some, like the SARS or MERS viruses, cause serious infections like pneumonia.
How are coronaviruses spread?
Like other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza, human coronaviruses most commonly spread to others from an infected person who has symptoms through:
• Droplets produced through coughing and sneezing
• Close personal contact, such as caring for an infected person
• Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
COVID-19 is new, and we are learning more each day about how easily it spreads and how long it takes for people to become sick. As information becomes available, we will keep you informed.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Reported illnesses have ranged from people with mild symptoms to people becoming severely ill, requiring admission to the hospital, and dying.
• Difficulty breathing
• Severe illness
If you believe you may have COVID-19, before you go to an urgent care or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms and/or your recent travel.
How is COVID-19 treated?
There is no specific treatment for illness caused by COVID-19. However, many of the symptoms can be treated. Treatment is based on the patient’s condition.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Be aware of scam products for sale that make false claims to prevent or treat this new infection.
What can I do to protect myself and others from respiratory infections like COVID-19?
As with other respiratory illnesses, there are steps that everyone can take daily to reduce the risk of getting sick or infecting others with circulating viruses.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
• Facemasks are most effective when used appropriately by health care workers and people who are sick.
• Get a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.