Whenever a new illness appears seemingly out of nowhere, and the media begins reporting an outbreak and deaths, it's cause for alarm. But is there a real reason to panic? With the coronavirus (COVID-19), the jury's still out, but the public is understandably anxious. In a state of uncertainty, you may begin to feel vulnerable and unsure of "what's next." Currently, the CDC says that the risk of getting COVID-19 within the U.S. is low, but it's essential to understand what the virus is, how to prevent it, and the threat it presents. To calm your pandemic panic, let's put this outbreak into perspective.
As of March 8, more than 110,000 COVID-19 cases were recorded worldwide. Of those cases, about 3.4% have died (this equates to more than 3,800 people; over 3,120 of them in China). But it's important to note that there are also more than 61,000 cases where the person affected, recovered. In fact, a report by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention states that, while COVID-19 can result in death, at this time, 80% of COVID-19 illnesses are mild. The report also suggests that serious illness only occurs in about 16% of cases, and people with underlying conditions are at a higher risk.
The latest version of the coronavirus originated from animals and, currently, not enough is known about how it affects humans to create a vaccine. What we do know is COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that presently seems to be spreading much like the seasonal flu, from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing, or talking. The World Health Organization (WHO) outlined one transmission difference between the seasonal flu and COVID-19. With the flu, people who are infected but not showing symptoms can spread the virus, masking the transmission. But, with COVID-19, data collected as of March 5 suggests transmission is only through people who are actively sick and showing symptoms. Because of this trait and others, WHO believes containment is possible through a comprehensive approach, including accurate tracking of new cases and community-based interventions. As an individual, there are prevention measures you can follow as well. With all this information in mind, here's what you need to know about COVID-19 and how to prevent it.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can infect animals and humans. The infections are prevalent among camels, cats, and bats; the virus causes diarrhea in pigs and cows and upper respiratory infections in chickens. These coronavirus strains can evolve and infect people. In humans, it's responsible for mild respiratory infections like the common cold but can also lead to more severe illnesses like pneumonia or bronchitis.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) are different versions of coronaviruses, and COVID-19 is a new strain that until now, wasn't previously identified in humans.
Chances are, you've been infected with a human strain of coronavirus at some point in your life, as most people have. The sickness usually lasts for a short amount of time, and symptoms may include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms of coronavirus disease typically appear within two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The elderly, babies, and people with compromised immune systems are impacted the most. Others with existing medical problems like lung conditions, heart disease, or high blood pressure are also more likely to become seriously ill. It's not surprising that smokers also run a higher risk of developing more severe conditions when exposed to the virus.
Help Prevent the Spread
If you think you may be affected by the coronavirus, the CDC recommends the following precautions to keep the disease from spreading.
- Stay home except to get medical care.
- Isolate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
- Wear a facemask.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid sharing personal household items.
- Clean all "high-touch" surfaces every day.
- Monitor your symptoms.
The Concern Over Healthcare Costs
With the anxiety of the coronavirus outbreak, we can't help but remind ourselves that the expense of tests and necessary medical care may discourage many people–even those with insurance–from seeking treatment for their symptoms. But for some, seeing a primary care physician could mean the difference between health and the onset of a serious illness. In times like these, options like direct primary care (DPC) and telehealth shine by providing convenient and affordable access to healthcare. This access is particularly vital for the restaurant, retail, service industry, and gig workers who can't afford to miss work, don't have health insurance, and are in public-interfacing jobs where they encounter many people every day.
Many DPC providers offer direct access to a physician via telehealth, which can be instrumental in helping families stay safe from any onset of illness, including infectious diseases. If you think you are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus or a common cold, a primary care physician or telehealth provider can evaluate your condition quickly – getting you on the road to wellness. By utilizing virtual care, people can minimize costs and exposure risks while receiving appropriate care from a licensed medical professional. Remember: while you should stay calm, also stay prepared. Check to see if your current health plan offers next-day primary care appointments or telehealth. When it comes to the health of your family, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Track WHO’s rolling updates here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen
Follow the CDC for Information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Track the CDC’s updates here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html