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 2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV. 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 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?
2019-nCov has continued to spread through person-to-person infection throughout Wuhan City and other parts of China. Person-to-person infections typically happen between close contact - about six 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 several cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States, but the virus is NOT actively spreading in the U.S.
While proper precautions should be taken when traveling outside the U.S., especially to China, Louisianans and U.S. residents need to be more cognizant of the flu as the U.S. is experiencing another widespread flu epidemic, and citizens are more likely to encounter it. According to the CDC, since October 2019, there have been 22-31 million flu illnesses, over 10 million flu medical visits, 200,000 flu hospitalizations and 12,000 flu deaths in the United States. In contrast, the CDC has confirmed 12 cases of 2019-nCoV in the U.S., all occurring in patients who have recently traveled to Wuhan City, China or live with someone who has.
U.S. citizens need to continue to protect themselves from catching the flu. Although we are in the peak of flu season, it isn’t too late to get a flu shot. Additional precautions include washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing to help limit spreading the virus to others and avoiding school or work when sick.
For most people, the flu 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, 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 Ochsner On Call line (1-800-231-5257 or 504-842-3155) – a free 24/7 service for advice and health education.
If you are advised to visit a hospital for an appointment instead of self-treating at home, you should take extra precautions by wearing a mask to minimize the risk of spreading or contracting illnesses.
Continue to take all necessary steps to keep yourself safe from the flu and consult your Ochsner doctor with any questions you may have. Chances are much greater for you to catch the flu than Coronavirus.