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What You Should Know About The Coronavirus

Jan 23, 2020 By Devin Collins

Recent headlines have swirled around the new strain of coronavirus from Wuhan, China that has infected over 600 people globally. The never-before-seen virus has since spread beyond Wuhan to numerous countries including Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and most recently, the United States. The Center for Disease Control confirmed the first case of the virus in Washington state Tuesday, raising concerns about a national outbreak.

While much is still unknown about the virus, there are many ways to implement healthy best practices, especially while traveling . Here’s what we know about the new coronavirus so far and some of our tips for staying healthy:

What is the Coronavirus?

Named for their crown-like spikes, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses causing respiratory-tract infections ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Though most commonly found in animals like cattle, cats, and bats, coronaviruses found in animals can in some cases infect and spread between humans, such as with SARs, which sickened nearly 8,000 in a 2003 outbreak.

How is it transmitted?

Early reports of the new coronavirus were linked to Wuhan markets selling live animals and seafood, suggesting animal-to-human spread. According to the CDC however, a growing number of infected humans did not have contact with any animal markets, suggesting human-to-human transmission may be involved. Only seven coronaviruses, including the new strain,are known to infect humans. The CDC notes that human coronaviruses are typically passed through coughing, sneezing, close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, or touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands.

What are the symptoms?

So far, patients with the current Wuhan coronavirus have experienced a range of mild to severe respiratory illness symptoms. Many have reported fever, cough, shortness of breath, and in some cases pneumonia and lung inflammation. Milder symptoms like a runny nose and sore throat can make the new coronavirus difficult to detect. If you have recently traveled to China (or come into contact with someone who has) and are experiencing symptoms consistent with the Wuhan coronavirus or think you may have been exposed, contact your healthcare provider.

How can I protect myself?

Researchers and public health officials are just beginning to understand the severity of the Wuhan coronavirus. Therefore, there is currently no vaccine available.The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend avoiding contact with anyone who may have had contact with the virus, and practicing good hygiene in the same way you would protect yourself against the flu :

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

How will this affect my travel?

CDC officials have begun screening travelers from Wuhan at LAX, SFO, and JFK international airports and will expand screenings to Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare airports this week. The U.S. public health agency, as well at the State Department, urges travelers to avoid all non-essential travel to Wuhan and to exercise caution when traveling to other parts of China. If you plan on traveling to China soon, you can protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Avoid contact with sick people and those with acute respiratory tract infections
  • Avoid animals (live or dead), animal markets, and animal products
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have had contact with Wuhan coronavirus, please reach out to your provider as soon as possible. For more information and updates on the virus, please refer to the CDC or WHO. Check out our blog for more ways to stay healthy while traveling.

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Devin Collins

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.