By Marsha Manning
What is a Coronavirus? – Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people. The name of this new corona virus is SARS-CoV-2.
What is COVID-19? – Coronavirus Infection Disease 2019 COVID-19 is the name of the illness that arises from an infection with the SARS-CoV-2. It is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The illness can be transmitted through respiratory droplets present in sneezes or coughs.
Where did this virus originate? – Viruses are remarkably sophisticated lifeforms that are constantly evolving and adapting to new environments and animal (including human) hosts. It is impossible to determine when this new variant evolved, but scientists believe that there is a high probability that the first transmission occurred when the virus jumped from animals to people, in a market in the Hubei province in China. The virus then likely spread among infected persons, many of whom were unaware that they were ill.
How did the virus spread so quickly? – Person-to-person transmission of viruses is rapid when infected people are in close contact with each other and are unaware that they are carrying an infectious agent. Local, regional and international travel also facilitates the ease and rapidity of the spread of the viral agent. An infected and ill person in one part of the world can easily travel to another destination in the world and begin to infect individuals in the new destination, if they remain infectious.
How serious is a COVID-19 infection? – COVID-19 presents as a mild illness for most healthy adults. The illness can be serious, however, even fatal for people who are older and/or have serious underlying conditions.
Is there a vaccine? – There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Development of a vaccine for a novel (new) virus usually takes up to 18 months.
How can I protect myself and my family? – Avoid crowds, avoid individuals who appear to be ill with a respiratory ailment (coughing, sneezing, wheezing) and keep your hands clean, particularly after touching public surfaces. Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. In the absence of soap and warm water, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Social distancing and good hand hygiene are perhaps the best defense against contraction of this illness.
What if I begin to feel ill? – Self-quarantine and isolate yourself, as best as possible, from other members of your family, particularly those that are elderly or otherwise have serious underlying conditions. If you feel that your symptoms are not improving, call a healthcare provider.
For more information and updates, visit: www.cdc.gov/COVID19