What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus
Dr. Stephen Threlkeld
A new strain of virus that originated in China is spreading quickly. It has caused great concern in China and the world, following the first cases of the disease in centrally located Wuhan. The disease has resulted in a number of deaths, and new cases have already been confirmed in the United States.
As more facts about the virus emerge, health officials urge people to take the usual cold and flu precautions. To help answer your questions and concerns about this disease, we talked to Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who works with Baptist Memorial Hospital.
Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also known as coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses found in many animals, including humans. Chinese health officials identified a new coronavirus on Jan. 7, 2020. The strain, called 2019-nCoV, had not been previously identified in humans.
Q: Is it easy for humans to contract coronavirus?
Some types of coronavirus infect humans already and typically cause mild illness, such as the common cold. On rare occasions, humans can contract other types of coronavirus from animals — these strains can lead to more serious diseases, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Early data suggest the 2019-nCoV strain of coronavirus spreads between two humans through tiny droplets when a person coughs or sneezes — much like other members of the coronavirus family, such as SARS and MERS.
Q: Have there been any confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Mid-South?
Right now, we don’t have any confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Mid-South.
There is no evidence of large scale human-to-human infection outside of China. The World Health Organization continues to watch the situation closely and will make recommendations as more data become available. The virus remains a low-risk threat to Americans at present. It’s still early to be concerned about contracting coronavirus in or around the Mid-South.
Q: What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Symptoms of coronavirus include fevers, cough and breathing difficulties.
Q: Who is most at risk of becoming severely ill from coronavirus?
As with many respiratory infections, people who are most likely to become ill include patients with underlying heart and lung conditions. Additionally, young children and older adults are at increased risk.
Q: Who is most at risk of contracting coronavirus?
Individuals who have been to the infected area in China — Wuhan city in Hubei province — within the last 14 days are most at risk of contracting coronavirus. If you have been exposed to a person under investigation by health care professionals for coronavirus, you are also at increased risk of contracting the virus.
Q: What should you do if you think you have coronavirus?
Contact your doctor’s office. It’s also important to notify your doctor’s office before arriving for your appointment so office staff members can take steps to prevent the spread of the virus to other patients in the office.
Additionally, wear a surgical mask if you think you may have contracted coronavirus. Evidence suggests that wearing a mask can help protect others around you from getting sick.
Q: How can you protect yourself from coronavirus?
Individuals who wish to protect themselves from coronavirus should take caution if they travel to Wuhan, China. Practice good health habits, including washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — especially after contact with surfaces such as doorknobs, shopping carts and light switches.
It’s always a good idea to protect yourself against health threats that already exist. Start by getting your flu shot. It’s likely the flu will kill thousands more people this year than coronavirus. While a flu shot doesn’t offer direct protection against coronavirus, statistics show it’s a good way to protect yourself from respiratory illness in general.