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What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

If you are hearing soundbites about the coronavirus, you may be feeling some anxiety about what it means for you and your family. This happens every time we hear of an outbreak of a novel virus, especially when it has the power to result in fatalities. As always, it is very important to keep things in perspective. For now, the risk of the coronavirus affecting you is very low. Of course this can change, but we have enough to be anxious about without adding this to our list unnecessarily. Stress and anxiety over getting sick will only serve to lower your immune system.

Here are some facts:

Coronavirus is a group of viruses, some of which infect humans. MERS and SARS are also coronavirus viruses. The one we are reading about (and worried about) right now is called 2019-nCoV.

It was first detected in Wuhan, China, and initial reports suggested an animal to person spread. Now, authorities there are seeing person-to-person infection. Thousands are infected with the virus in China and so far, 80 people have died.

Experts believe it is spread much like the flu, through respiratory droplets.

Symptoms include fever and respiratory symptoms like cough and shortness of breath. Some people will have mild symptoms and some fatal. At best guess so far, symptoms can appear anywhere from 2 - 14 days after exposure.

Currently, there is no specific treatment or cure, and those requiring treatment will receive supportive care.

Even though the virus is highly contagious and dangerous, right now, the CDC considers the risk to the American public low. Let's keep our anxieties about this virus realistic and low as well. At the time this was written, there were five known cases in the U.S. (Washington, Chicago, Arizona and two in California), all people who had recently returned from Wuhan. As of now, February 3, there are 11 confirmed cases, also in Massachusetts.) There will likely be more, because of the people they have been in contact with. The good news is both the virus and the geographic source has been identified, so healthcare organizations know where to put their efforts. All you can do is be smart, continue to protect yourself and your family as best you can from all types of illness, including the flu, and don't panic just because the headlines are scary.

About Dr. Karen Latimer

I’m a family physician now struggling to take care of a bunch of kids who keep calling me Mom. When I’m not wiping butts, refereeing sibling rivalry and chauffeuring over-scheduled little people, I write a family medical blog that gives you five thoughts on all sorts of different health topics.

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