About the Coronavirus

February 15, 2020

About the Coronavirus

by Vicki Engmark, MLHS Infection Preventionist

The Coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s. The virus infects animals more than humans. The most common Coronaviruses cause mild to moderate illness in humans similar to a common cold. There are three variations of the Coronavirus that cause more severe illness, complications and death. They are the SARS and MERS variations that came out in 2002 and 2012 respectively. This year, the third variation came out, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

This new form of the Coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China. It started out with animal-to-human spread from seafood and animal markets. It is now spreading from person-to-person. There are many types of viruses and they can spread differently. Some spread through direct contact with the virus. This can occur when you touch an infected person or object and the virus gets into your body. Some viruses spread through droplets. This occurs when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes and if you are within 6 feet of the infected person you can inhale the droplets.  It is believed that the 2019 Novel Coronavirus is spread by droplets. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is learning more about this virus each day so more information will be coming.

Symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath, which can occur two to 14 days after exposure. It is not known how long people are contagious, but the CDC believes that it can be spread before symptoms are noticed.

Status of the new Coronavirus

While most of the cases are in China, there are cases in other countries, including the US.

To prevent the spread into the US, the Centers for Disease Control has implemented screening of all people entering the US from China. If anybody who is screened has symptoms, they are placed in facilities to prevent spread.

Protecting ourselves

There is no vaccine for Coronavirus, so the best protection is to avoid contact with infected people. At this time, the contact with infected people is unlikely unless you are traveling out of the country. Travelers from China are being screened when they enter the US, further decreasing the chance of exposure.

At Mille Lacs Health System, the Infection Preventionist is monitoring the situation daily and receiving information from the MN Dept. of Health and CDC. If the situation changes in MN, we are ready to respond. At this time, we need to be more concerned with influenza (which can also cause death) than the Coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), influenza, mumps, polio, and measles are all far more contagious than the Coronavirus.

Finally, good handwashing helps prevent the spread of every kind of illness.