What Is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses known for containing strains that cause potentially deadly diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, they're typically spread via airborne droplets of fluid produced by infected individuals.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In 2019, a new coronavirus was identified as the cause of a disease outbreak in China.
The virus is now known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
There are four known genuses in the family, named Alphacoronavirus, Betacoronavirus, Gammacoronavirus, and Deltacoronavirus. The first two only infect mammals, including bats, pigs, cats, and humans. Gammacoronavirus mostly infects birds such as poultry, while Deltacoronavirus can infect both birds and mammals.
Snakes were originally suspected as a potential source for the outbreak, though other experts have deemed this unlikely and proposed bats instead. As of February 2020, the search for the animal origin of COVID-19 is ongoing.
How to Protect Yourself and Prepare for the Coronavirus
The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. People who are older or have existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, may be at higher risk of serious illness. This is similar to what is seen with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.
The CDC says "older adults" and people with severe chronic illness are more likely to become severely ill from Covid-19.
Infectious disease experts define "older adults" as anyone age 60 and up, so people in that age group should be cautious.
It's possible to contract the virus at a younger age — it's just more dangerous in older adults because the immune system weakens with age, said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of Geriatrics for the Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto.
People over the age of 80 may want to exercise even more caution.
Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?
No. In the UK, the medical advice is now that anyone with a cough or high temperature should stay at home for seven days, keeping away from other people, including those in your home if you can. This applies to everyone, regardless of whether they have traveled abroad.
If you get worse or your symptoms last longer than seven days, you should call NHS 111. People will no longer be tested for the virus unless they are in hospital.
The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a pandemic, and the number of cases continues to rise worldwide. These basic steps can help you reduce your risk of getting sick or infecting others.
If you think you have the novel coronavirus: Stay home and call your physician. If they think you should come in for a test, limit your interaction with other people and don't use public transportation. They may provide a face mask for you to wear while in their office.
If your doctor is not immediately available: Consider calling a local coronavirus hotline. Some city, county, and state health departments have numbers you can call to discuss your symptoms and learn more about the virus's impact on the community. Keep in mind that these hotlines are meant as informational resources, and it's impossible to diagnose Covid-19 without a test.
If you're diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and your illness is mild: Your physician may advise that you stay home until you recover. If your symptoms are more severe, you may be hospitalized so physicians can monitor your condition.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Google