A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Coronavirus outbreak: What you should know

A girl coughs into her elbow.

The coronavirus outbreak has sickened scores of people across the world, including in the U.S. Learn more about the illness and how you can stay safe.

Editor’s note: This Shine365 blog post has been updated to reflect the formal name of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Confirmed case count is what we know it to be as of March 26, 2020. More information can be found at the CDC website.

An outbreak of a respiratory illness that originated in China that has sickened scores of people across the world, has now been confirmed in the U.S. and the number of sickened patients in the U.S. is anticipated to rise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, called COVID-19.

The latest situation summary updates are available on CDC’s website.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses commonly found in animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. On rare occasions, such as the MERS and SARS outbreaks, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people.

What does this mean for you and your family?

The first case in the United States was announced Jan. 21. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. There have been over 68,000 confirmed cases of this virus reported in the U.S. as of March 20, according to the CDC.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms or has been in contact with someone who has been confirmed to have had the virus should seek medical care if they are ill.

Symptoms

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days exposure.

How to protect yourself

WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay home when you’re sick, and avoid contact with people who are already sick.
  • Sanitize commonly-used surfaces and objects.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel and large social gatherings.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Practice proper cough etiquette.
  • If you become ill with flu or coronavirus symptoms, call your doctor first before coming to a health care clinic or hospital.

“Much like other illnesses we see during this time of year, practicing good hygiene is essential,” said Kate Maguire, Marshfield Clinic Health System Director of Infection Prevention. “If you don’t feel well, stay home from work or school.”

Resources:

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

Marshfield Clinic Coronavirus Updates 

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