What You Need to Know About Coronavirus

These are confusing times indeed, with coronavirus omnipresent in all aspects of news reports, social media posts, and neighborhood chatter. But what do you really need to know about coronavirus, and where can you get the best information?

Information Overload

Every news source, media outlet, Facebook group, Twitter feed, blog, business website, storefront door, and government entity has information available about coronavirus. Unfortunately, this glut of information makes it very easy to get conflicting messages. Different sources may rely on different data that best suits their needs or business, and every source may update their own information at different times. The better you can simplify your resources, the easier it will be to understand the ongoing updates and changing details about this pandemic disease. Instead of visiting dozens of different media sources and following every hashtag and alert, consider choosing only your most trusted, reliable resources and limiting your media exposure instead. This can help you stay calm and updated without getting overwhelmed. Understanding the basics of this disease, however, is still essential so you can accurately follow and interpret the data that is available.

What Is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viral respiratory diseases from the family Coronaviridae. This family also includes some strains of the common cold, as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS, or camel flu). These diseases are named coronaviruses because of their microscopic appearance, which includes a crown-like layer of protein spikes that look similar to a star’s corona. Coronaviruses were first discovered in animals in the 1930s, and the first cases in humans were found in the 1960s. 
The current pandemic disease was first noted as a new strain in late 2019, with the initial outbreak centered in Wuhan, China. As more information about the disease was discovered, it was named the 2019 novel coronavirus – 2019 for the year it appeared, novel for being “new” without existing immunities, and coronavirus for being part of the Coronaviridae family. Other names are COVID-19 and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. Different media outlets may use different names, but each one means the same disease.

How Coronavirus Is Transmitted

The 2019 coronavirus that led to the 2020 pandemic outbreak is believed to have first been transmitted by bats, and it could have been held in other animals, such as the pangolin or other wildlife. The exact route of transmission for how the disease came into contact with humans is not yet precisely identified, but it is not believed to be harbored in domestic pets or livestock.
Human-to-human transmission of coronavirus is primarily through droplets in coughs or sneezes, which are then inhaled and transmitted to another person’s lungs. Virus droplets can survive for several days on surfaces, though the exact length of infectious time depends on the type of surface, the amount of virus present on the surface, and how it comes into contact with someone else. Should someone touch an infected surface, then touch vulnerable parts of their face such as their nose, eyes, or mouth, it is possible they could become infected, though such transmission rates are believed to be relatively low. 
The strongest transmission is from coming into direct, close contact with an infected person. It is possible that other bodily fluids, including blood, urine, and feces, could potentially carry the virus and aid its transmission, though those transmission vectors have not been strongly confirmed and are not believed to be a strong transmission route.

Coronavirus Symptoms

Like most respiratory diseases, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a high fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. More severe symptoms can develop, including impaired lung function, which can be deadly. While many infected people may show only very mild or no explicit symptoms, more vulnerable individuals can develop dangerous infections that can be fatal. Individuals with compromised immune systems, poor lung function, and other severe underlying health concerns are especially vulnerable, as are the elderly.
Anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus should contact their health provider for guidance as to whether they should be tested directly for the disease. Anyone with severe, life-threatening symptoms – such as an extended high fever or severely compromised breathing – should seek emergency care. 

Keeping Safe

As of spring 2020, there is no known cure or vaccine effective against coronavirus, though many people do safely recover. The practice of social distancing – eliminating group activities and remaining at least 6 feet from others in any public setting – is effective at slowing the spread of the disease and minimizing the risk of contamination and infection. Other steps to minimize the risk include:
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and warm water
  • Using hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) when handwashing is not available
  • Coughing into a sleeve or tissue to catch respiratory droplets instead of spreading them
  • Disinfecting all common surfaces regularly, including keyboards, door handles, phones, tablets, tables, countertops, light switches, toilet handles, faucets, etc.
In addition to these steps, anyone with increased vulnerability should consider wearing a face mask if they must be in public. Gloves can also be worn to minimize contact with potentially infected surfaces. Anyone feeling ill should stay home and isolate themselves from others, not only to avoid transmitting the disease, but also to avoid exposing themselves to more contagions.
Furthermore, maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet, appropriate exercise, and adequate sleep is essential to stay well during this period. A healthy body will always be less vulnerable to infection and contagion, and will be able to recover more quickly if a disease does strike.

The Most Important Thing to Know

Above all, it is important to recognize that this is a changing situation, and there is new information about COVID-19 daily. Doctors, virologists, and other experts are working diligently to study the disease, determine the most effective treatments, and craft vaccines.
Local recommendations and guidelines will vary based on each area’s needs, and it is best to rely on trusted, local news sources for the best recommendations. Use official resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for updates, and avoid succumbing to information overload. Be careful with suggested home remedies, rumors, and other misinformation, and instead take care to remain calm and informed.
This is a confusing, frightening time for people around the globe, but by understanding what coronavirus is and how to get the best information, you can stay calm and well as the pandemic passes.
Note: This article is intended as general information and not as medical advice. Consult your doctor for medical advice specific to your needs and situation.