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Is coronavirus something you have to worry about?

You’ve likely seen recent news stories about coronavirus, but if you’re like many people, you don’t know if this health outbreak is something you need to pay attention to. Although information on this virus is rapidly developing, here’s some of the latest information currently known about coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses, with various strains affecting people and animals. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is the strain that is currently in the news and it was first identified in Wuhan, China. The virus may cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Symptoms of this illness are similar to other respiratory illnesses and include fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Some infected people have few or no symptoms and recover in a few days. Others, especially the very young, elderly or those with weakened immune systems, may have more severe symptoms requiring hospitalization. The virus may even cause death. If you believe you may have been exposed to coronavirus, you should inform your physician, urgent care or emergency department immediately upon your arrival.

How do you get coronavirus?

The exact way the virus is spread is unknown at this time, but it is believed that it requires close contact with someone infected with the virus. Initial cases of the illness are believed to have spread by animal-to-person contact but now person-to-person contact is occurring. Symptoms appear in 2 - 14 days after exposure but the virus may be spreading even in people with no obvious symptoms.

How can you protect yourself from coronavirus?

The same steps you take to avoid getting a cold or the flu will help protect you from coronavirus. Wash hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands. Disinfect surfaces you touch. Stay away from people with obvious signs of illness. Keep your immune system strong by eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Should you wear a protective face mask?

Images of people wearing face masks may have you wondering if you should wear one, too. Masks can be helpful in preventing the spread of the virus if worn properly by limiting the chance of inhaling infectious particles. But infectious disease experts say there’s little need to wear a mask.

How can coronavirus be treated?

There are no specific treatments for coronavirus, but you can help relieve symptoms by doing what you would do for a cold or flu. This includes taking medication for pain/fever, using a humidifier or taking a hot shower to help ease coughing, drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough rest. If symptoms don’t improve, see a doctor.

Learn more abou the 2019 Novel Coronavirus here.

While coronavirus is the latest public health concern, it is important to note that influenza (flu) is much more prevalent and more likely to result in illness, hospitalization or death.