(Gray News) - The coronavirus known as COVID-19 has spread to countries including the U.S. and across all continents except Antarctica.
The attention the outbreak of the respiratory illness has gotten is due in part to it being a new disease. Medical professionals and governments are working to create a vaccine, but it is at least a year to 1 1/2 years away, per Dr. Antony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on March 2.
The mortality rate for people with the virus has been widely reported around 2-3%, but health experts note the actual percentage is not that high, as not all cases are diagnosed or reported.
The rate is higher than the flu, which kills on average about 0.1% of people who get it, based on a 10-year average of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC said the coronavirus is spread mainly from person to person by those in close contact or through coughing and sneezing by someone who’s infected. Symptoms range from mild to severe and potentially death and appear around two to 14 days after exposure.
The new coronavirus causing the outbreak first appeared in Wuhan, China in late 2019, according to the CDC. "Coronaviruses" are a large family of viruses with a wide range of symptoms, ranging from SARS and MERS to the common cold.
COVID-19 is an abbreviation of "CO" for "corona," "VI" for "virus," "D" for disease and "19" for 2019. Formerly, this disease was referred to as "2019 novel coronavirus" or "2019-nCoV," the CDC said.
The first infections of the disease have been linked to a live animal market in Wuhan. It is rare that animal coronaviruses emerge to infect people but appears to have been the case for the new virus, as well as past instances with MERS and SARS.
By March there had been limited instances of “community spread” - people becoming ill who had not visited a region known to be part of the outbreak.
The CDC said some viruses, like the cold and the flu, spread more during cold weather. But it is not yet known whether the weather and temperature will impact the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC recommends these preventive actions:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
It is recommended people call their doctor if they feel sick with fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Also, a healthcare professional should be contacted if a person has recently been in an area known to have an ongoing spread of the disease.
Healthcare professionals are working with local and state departments, as well as the CDC, to test people suspected to have the illness.