There is a lot of media attention directed at a viral health crisis that originated in Wuhan, China. In the U.S. you might have heard of the Coronavirus outbreak, but many don’t understand the severity of this outbreak which has now become a global problem.
What is Coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization, Coronavirus is a large family of viruses found in animals and humans. Known coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). This new outbreak is considered a novel coronavirus (CoV) called 2019-nCoV that has never been detected prior to the outbreak reported in Wuhan, China December 2019. What is confusing to many is why the current strain of coronavirus is so serious. If it’s no different than a common viral flu, why is the outbreak so serious?
Who is At-Risk for Infection?
Like any common respiratory illness or virus, there are certain populations of people who are most at risk for infection and complications of infection. Adults 65 and over, pregnant women, people living with heart disease or asthma, and young children are most at risk for flu infection and complications. This is true for flue, common cold, and various strains of coronaviruses like 2019-nCoV.
Is it Safe to Travel?
This global outbreak has prompted authorities in Asia and around the world to implement certain travel restrictions in order to contain the virus. The seriousness of the outbreak in China is evident by the rising number of deaths, now at 420 with more than 19,000 infected in 25 counties. The United States has taken action to reroute flights in order to screen returning passengers. The Department of State has issued a level 4 travel advisory for U.S. residents, urging them to not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus now considered a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Though you are able to return to the U.S., you can expect to be screened in one of 11 airports equipped to conduct appropriate health screenings. These screenings may include up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine for U.S. residents and delayed entry for non-residents.
Preventing the Infection and Spread of Viral Outbreaks
You can prevent the spread of viruses like coronavirus, flu, and even common cold by following a few easy tips and habits and by teaching them to those around you.
First, make sure you take care to stop collecting the germs of others and leaving your germs behind. You can do this by handwashing, covering coughs, and avoiding close contact. It’s also important to keep contaminated hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes. How do you know if your hand is contaminated? During cold and flu season, it is best to assume your hand has been contaminated by germs. Treat your hands, nose, mouth, and eyes the same way you would if you were visiting a clinic or the home of someone who is already sick. Do not eat with dirty hands. Clean and disinfect surfaces often, including light switches, door knobs, keyboards, and phones. Sleep the suggested eight hours per night, and drink plenty of water. When in doubt, visit your primary care physician if you experience symptoms and are at high risk for infection and complications or if you have been in contact with someone with the virus.