The disease COVID-19, caused by the Coronavirus, otherwise known as SARS-CoV-2, has affected over 160 known patients across 18 states in the U.S. In New York, there are 11 new cases, with less than 5 people dead from the virus so far. However, the constant coverage of the virus is leading to a lot of anxiety and the proliferation of misinformation has become a great challenge to managing the virus.
A key question that keeps coming back is what one should be focusing on and know about the virus to protect yourself, your immediate family and other members in the community. What should an average New Yorker know about the Coronavirus or ‘flu on steroid’ as dubbed by Governor Andrew Cuomo? The following addresses some of the often-asked questions about the virus.
Question: What is Coronavirus?
Answer: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is a large family of viruses that are common in humans and many different species of animals, including cats, bats, cattle and camels.
Question: What are the symptoms?
Answer: Similar to the flu, the common symptoms found among patients which everyone needs to be on the lookout for according to the CDC and the Journal of the American Medical Association, are shortness of breath, coughing (76%-82%), fever (98%) and feelings of fatigue or exhaustion (11%-14%) . These symptoms often appear within 2 to 14 days of being exposed to the virus.
Question: How deadly is the virus?
Answer: Coronavirus can kill, just like any other disease. Most experts agree that COVID-19 is most deadly for people with preexisting health concerns like diabetes and respiratory issues and the elderly. The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, during a news conference on March 5 that about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 patients around the world have died. Other reports have shown a trend in the disease gathered from international data, that it affects more males than females, and pregnant women. As of today, there are currently no treatments for the disease, but various laboratories are working tirelessly to discover treatment options which includes a vaccine. This is the rational thought everyone must focus on.
Question: How does it spread?
Answer: The CDC outlines that, it spreads from person-to-person like how the influenza viruses and other respiratory diseases spread during close contact with a person infected with COVID-19. This spread is thought to occur mainly through exposure to respiratory droplets formed when an infected person cough. These droplets can land in the eyes, noses or mouths of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. CDC reports that it is presently unclear if anyone can get infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Question: What is the risk of getting the virus in New York?
Answer: The individual risk of getting the virus in New York varies depending on various factors like location and exposure to potential carriers.
Question: How can I protect myself?
Answer: Most experts advise following the same process you use to protect yourself from most viruses. They emphasize the importance of personal hygiene such as regular and proper handwashing with soap and water, keeping the mouth covered when coughing, and sneezing into tissues. You should also get the flu-shot during the winter season, practice self-quarantine such as staying home when you develop flu-like symptoms and seeking medical advice. (See additional guidelines from the CDC’s website, www.cdc.org).
Question: What is the worst-case scenario?
Answer: There are several devastating scenarios that can play out if the virus remains unchecked, leading to more widespread coverage to every part of the world. This might likely increase the number of infections in the U.S. from different sources of exposures including travelers into and outside the U.S. The economy will be affected as seen over the past several weeks in the stock market index fluctuations. In the final analysis, more people will die.
Question: What is the best-case scenario?
Answer: On the positive side, an effective vaccine will be found very soon, and the disease will become contained, drastically decreasing the number of deaths. Over time, a body of knowledge will be gathered to inform stakeholders of potential future incidents.