Elvie Anchetta

You’ve heard it in the news. It’s the latest outbreak that is becoming a rapidly evolving public health situation.

Undeniably, we are in the midst of influenza and respiratory infection season, which is a common occurrence.

There are hundreds of viruses known to make people sick, and these viruses continue to evolve, just as human beings continue to evolve.

One coronavirus is making its presence known. Coronavirus is one cluster of viruses that is common in many different species of animals, including camels, cats, and bats.

On rare occasions, coronaviruses evolve to infect humans with the ability to spread between humans.

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are four main coronavirus sub-groups: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.

Human coronaviruses were first identified in 1960s. Since then, there are seven coronaviruses that can infect people according to the CDC.

Some human coronaviruses were identified many years ago, and some have been identified recently. Two newer human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, have been known to frequently cause severe symptoms. The latest one identified is the 2019 Novel (meaning new) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Coronaviruses are common throughout the world. MES-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) for example was first reported in 2012, in Saudi Arabia and has been reported to have caused human illness in more than 25 other countries, including our country.

The latest known coronavirus was reported by the World health organization on January 9 associating it with an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China.

Since then, the CDC has been monitoring the developments around this outbreak. The first known case in China was identified in December 2019, hence the name.

To date, there are two known cases of infected humans in the U.S. Both of them traveled and recently returned from Wuhan, China.

The first case was identified in the state of Washington, and the second was detected in Illinois. According to the CDC, the immediate health risk to the American public is considered low at this time, but public health measures are being put in place proactively.

One of the measures implemented is the public health entry screening at Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco airports.

According to the CDC, common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract symptoms similar to common cold. These symptoms usually last for short period of time. Symptoms may include:

• Runny nose.

• Headache.

• Cough.

• Sore throat.

• Fever.

• General feeling of being unwell.

Some people may be vulnerable to a more severe illness such as pneumonia or bronchitis.

People with cardiopulmonary conditions, those with weakened immune systems, infants and older adults are most vulnerable.

If you are experiencing symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider and provide your recent travel history to assist with the diagnosis.

Your healthcare provider may order laboratory tests to aid in the diagnosis.

There are no specific treatments, but here are treatments to alleviate the symptoms.

You may manage mild symptoms at home, but see your healthcare provider for more severe symptoms.

Currently, there are no vaccines available to protect the public against human coronavirus infection, but we can certainly reduce our risk of any infection by doing the following common practices:

• Good hand hygiene — wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

• Hygienic practices — avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoiding exposures — avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Prevent the spread of infections as well.  If you have cold-like symptoms:

• Stay home while you are sick.

• Avoid close contact with others.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissues in the trash, and wash your hands.

• Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.

Viruses will continue to evolve. Let’s help our human bodies develop strong immune systems to protect itself with good nutrition, healthy activities, and plenty of rest and sleep.

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