What is COVID-19? Information about the coronavirus

Published 7:50 pm Friday, February 28, 2020

“Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website. “The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China (on Dec. 31, 2019).”

The World Health Organization reports as of Thursday, Feb. 27, that 82,294 cases have been confirmed globally, including 1,185 new; China has 78,630 confirmed case, 439 new and 2,747 deaths and 29 new; Outside of China 3,664 cases have been confirmed, 746 new, in 46 countries with 9 new and 57 deaths, 13 new.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 26, the CDC reported 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States since Jan. 21.

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Those 15 U.S. cases were confirmed through “U.S. public health surveillance systems since Jan. 21, 2020,” the CDC reports, “and does not include people who returned to the U.S. via State Department-chartered flights.”

Of the 15 confirmed cases in the United States 12 were travel-related and three were person-to-person spread, the CDC states.

The CDC reports that COVID-19 emerged from an animal source but now appears to be spreading from person to person and little is know about how contagious it is.

“It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum,” the CDC reports. “Some diseases are highly contagious (like measles), while other diseases are less so. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading between people. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (‘community spread’) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.”

The CDC offers the following information on how COVID-19 is spread.

“Person-to-person spread: The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

“Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects: It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

“Can someone spread the virus without being sick? People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe and death, the CDC reports.

“Symptoms can include: Fever, cough and shortness of breath,” the CDC reports. “CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.”

Prevention and treatment

The CDC reports no vaccine is currently available for COVID-19 and recommends individuals practice the following procedures to minimize the chance of exposure.

“The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus,” the CDC reports. “However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including: 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.”

Do facemasks work?

“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.”

Serve on the Mayor’s Task Force?

Anyone who is interested in serving on the Mayor’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness Task Force should contact the Mayor’s Office at 601-445-7500. For more information on COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov/COVID19 or msdh.ms.gov/coronavirus.