You cannot turn on the news today without hearing about the Corona virus. Words like pandemic are being tossed around and people in hazmat suits decontaminating the public transportation systems in China are quite jarring images. This leaves many people wondering about their risk and how much should they really be worried about this new pathogen.
Let’s start with what it is: The Corona viruses, in general, are a family of viruses that cause everything from the common cold to pneumonia. The one making all the headlines is currently being called COVID-19 (“CO” for Corona, “VI” for virus, “D” for disease, and “19” for the year it started).
The symptoms for COVID-19 range from a mild illness to more severe symptoms, including death and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While it is not clear exactly how COVID-19 spreads, it is assumed to be through respiratory droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing. The incubation period, (the time from exposure to illness) is presumed to be between 2-14 days.
There is currently no cure for Corona virus and the only recommended treatment is to not catch it. Avoiding people that are sick, avoiding travel to China, proper hand washing, and wiping down commonly touched items (that includes your cell phones) are ways to avoid exposure to the virus.
Currently, there are 14 cases in the United States, with California having the most, a total of 8, and Massachusetts having 1. Given this knowledge, let’s go back to our original question; should I panic.
The short answer is “no”. We should absolutely be careful. But, allow me to provide a little context. There are currently 45,000 cases of Corona virus. 1,100 people have died because of the infection. Compare that to the flu where it is presumed 19million people have been ill. 180,000 hospitalized and 12,000 have died. Annually, the flu kills 290,000-650,000 people worldwide.
COVID-19 is new and there is a lot we still don’t know about it. There is no vaccine and it is reasonable to be concerned. However, there is a much more common virus, capable of causing severe illness and death, going around right now FOR WHICH WE HAVE A VACCINE. If you have not already gotten your flu shot, it is not too late. Yes, it seems they missed the mark with one strain (Influenza B) , but the second wave of flu is going around and it appears that the vaccine is quite effective against Influenza strain A. Please make an appt. with your healthcare provider today to get vaccinated.
BROOKE RIETH NP