Chances are, if you’ve turned on the news recently or opened your internet browser, you have seen mentions of coronavirus. Many have been left to wonder: What is it? How is it spread? And should I be concerned?
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people and others circulating among animals. There are various strands of coronaviruses, and the one that has made headlines recently is referred to as COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that it was first detected in Wuhan City, China and has since spread across various parts of China and the world due to person-to-person infection. While much is still being learned about this strand, it is believed to have originated as an animal coronavirus that infected people, which is rare.
How is it spread?
COVID-2019 has continued to spread through person-to-person infection throughout China and other parts of the world. Person-to-person infections typically happen between close contact - about 6 feet or closer. Like many other viruses, it is typically spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when someone coughs or sneezes. These germs can then land in the mouth or nose of another nearby person and be inhaled into the lungs.
Should I be concerned?
The CDC has confirmed numerous cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with most states reporting cases. We continue to monitor the CDC’s report on COVID-19 in the United States for up-to-date statistics as this is constantly changing.
Proper precautions should be taken when traveling anywhere, especially to areas with high infection rates. The status of COVID-19 is changing every day, so continue to monitor the CDC’s list of travel notices before traveling. While U.S. residents need to be aware of all updates and changes with the status of COVID-19, individuals still need to be cognizant of the flu as the United States is experiencing another widespread flu epidemic, and citizens are more likely to encounter it. According to the CDC, since October 2019, there have been 39 million to 56 million flu illnesses, 18 million to 26 million flu medical visits, 410,000 to 740,000 flu hospitalizations and anywhere between 24,000 to 62,000 flu deaths in the United States. In contrast, the CDC has confirmed 2,679,230 cases of COVID-2019 in the United States, resulting in 128,024 deaths. This number is changing daily, so for the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in the United States, visit the CDC
U.S. citizens need to continue to protect themselves from catching the flu and other viruses. While flu numbers have started to decrease, it isn’t too late to get a flu shot. Additional precautions include keeping yourself protected by washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth with a tissue when sneezing and coughing to help limit spreading the virus to others and avoiding school or work when sick.
For most people, viruses and colds can be managed safely at home with rest, fluids and time, though some cases would require an in-person visit or, in extreme cases, hospitalization. For patients seeking care for the flu and other contracted viruses, Ochsner offers urgent care virtual visits through Ochsner Anywhere Care, the MyOchsner patient portal which allows you to connect with your Primary Care physician or pediatrician and immediate assistance and guidance through the Ochsner COVID-19 Info Line, our free nurse care line (1-844-888-2772). For general information, dial the Louisiana hotline, 211, or text the keyword LACOVID to 898-211.
If you are advised to visit an office or hospital for an appointment instead of self-treating at home, you should maintain proper hand hygiene and take extra precautions by wearing a mask to minimize the risk of spreading or contracting illnesses.
The information in this blog post is accurate at the time of publication. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, it's possible that information has changed since being published. While Ochsner Health is trying to keep our blog posts as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC website.