Here's What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

What is the Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause upper and lower respiratory infections.  They were named for the crown-like appearance the cells have when viewed under a microscope (“corona” is Latin for “crown”). 

Most strains of the coronavirus cause mild upper respiratory symptoms, similar to the common cold, including a cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat and fever.  

Rates of coronavirus infection are typically highest during the winter months.  The virus is so widespread that most people will have had at least one coronavirus infection in their lifetime, though they may not be aware of it since the symptoms are indistinguishable from symptoms of other viruses that cause upper respiratory infections, which are frequently referred to as “the common cold.”

Why am I hearing about Coronavirus in the news?

Although most strains of the coronavirus cause mild respiratory infections, there’s a subset of the virus that causes more virulent infections, which have a significantly higher mortality rate.  In 2003, an outbreak of the coronavirus strain SARS-CoV caused more than 8000 infections worldwide and led to 774 deaths from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

In 2012, another virulent strain of coronavirus was identified.  The outbreak of this virus, named MERS-CoV, began in Saudi Arabia, and caused hundreds of deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Coronavirus is in the news again because in late 2019, there was an outbreak of a deadly coronavirus in Wuhan, China, a city with a population of more than 11 million people.  This pathogen has been named COVID-19, which stands for COronaVIrus Disease 2019.

Unlike the strains of the coronavirus that cause mild upper respiratory symptoms, COVID-19 is more like the virulent coronavirus strains that caused the SARS and MERS outbreaks.

The virus is highly contagious, and has several forms of transmission.  It can be spread via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  It can be spread through close contact with an infected person, including hugs and handshakes.  And it can be spread by touching a hard surface contaminated with the virus.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough and shortness of breath.  It also usually shows up on a chest X-ray as pneumonia involving both lungs.  Severe infections can lead to sepsis, respiratory distress and organ failure.

In addition to abnormal X-ray findings, a test would be sent to the Center for Disease Control (or another CDC approved lab) to be confirmed.

The majority of infections have occurred in the city of Wuhan, China, but the virus has been spread to other countries by airline passengers, many of whom were traveling to celebrate the Chinese New Year. 

As of March 10th, 2020 there have been 167 confirmed cases and 29 deaths of COVID-19 across 39 states in the U.S., Find out where the virus has been confirmed, as well as learn about any new cases on the CDC website.

How can I protect myself from the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

To avoid contracting this virulent virus, authorities from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend avoiding unnecessary travel to the Hubei province of China, where the city of Wuhan is located.  It’s also important to wash your hands often, frequently disinfect hard surfaces, avoid contact with people who have symptoms of the virus or have traveled in the Hubei province, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

If you do develop a fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, especially after travel or contact with someone who has recently traveled internationally, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention right away by calling your medical provider or nearest urgent care.


At GoHealth Urgent Care we’re open 7 days a week to care for you -- Please call your nearest center if you believe there is possibility that you or a loved one has contracted the Novel Coronavirus. Click below if there’s anything else we can do today to help you feel better:

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