CORONAVIRUS

Questions and answers about the coronavirus, COVID-19

FILE - This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019
FILE - This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Health officials hope to avoid stigma and error in naming the virus causing an international outbreak of respiratory illnesses. But some researchers say the current moniker, 2019 nCoV, which stands for 2019 novel coronavirus, probably won’t stick in the public’s mind. (CDC via AP, File)

What is COVID-19?

The 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, China, in December. It is the most recently discovered member of a large family of coronaviruses.

There are seven different coronaviruses known to infect humans, four of which are common and cause mild symptoms similar to a cold.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Symptoms usually are mild and begin gradually. There are some individuals who become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel ill.

How severe is COVID-19?

Reported illnesses have ranged from people becoming mildly sick to those who become severely ill.

The World Health Organization has said older individuals and people with existing medical conditions appear to develop serious illnesses more often than others.

As of Thursday, China reported about 2,700 deaths have resulted from the virus. About 57 deaths have occurred outside of China.

Some public health experts say the average mortality rate is estimated to range between 1 to 3 percent. A report from China showed the fatality rate among 72,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases was 2.3 percent.

How does it spread?

The disease can spread from person to person and is mainly transmitted through small droplets from the nose or mouth. These droplets also land on objects and surfaces, and other people can catch the virus by touching these areas and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Can I catch it from someone who doesn’t have symptoms?

For the most part, the disease spreads through respiratory droplets from someone coughing. So the risk of catching the virus from someone with no symptoms is very low, according to the WHO.

However, many people experience only mild symptoms, so it is possible to catch the virus from someone who is coughing but otherwise does not feel ill.

What is my risk for infection?

Currently, public health officials say the risk for infection is associated only with recent travel to China. If an individual has traveled to the country in the past two weeks and is exhibiting symptoms, which include fever, cough or difficulty breathing, you should notify your doctor.

However, some federal officials say a spread of the virus in the United States could soon be possible.

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On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a case of COVID-19 in a California resident who reportedly did not have relevant travel history or exposure to another patient infected with the virus. It’s possible this is the first instance of community spread in the United States.

How can I keep from becoming sick?

Recommendations from state and federal public health officials to prevent a coronavirus infection are the same recommendations for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.

Individuals are encouraged to wash their hands frequently with soap, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer and cover coughs and sneezes.

Most importantly, state public health officials say those who don’t feel well should stay home and out of the workplace.

Medical face masks currently are recommended only for those with respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or fever, and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms.

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