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As we begin a new year, the threat of a pandemic looms in the form of the deadly COVID-19, the disease that spreads the novel coronavirus.  Compared to other public health antecedents like the HIV/AIDS virus of the early 1980s, COVID-19 is “deja-vu all over again”.  Notwithstanding the stigma attached to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, COVID-19’s transmissibility is unbound in that physical intimacy is not a required prerequisite for its transmission.

For all intended purposes, a look at coronavirus is pertinent for gleaning:

  • a better understanding about how the virus spreads and causes coronavirus disease and
  • to alleviate the worries of the public thus allowing health professionals to take swift actions and address the issue comprehensively.

Recently emerged from Wuhan China, coronavirus is identified as one of the many types of human coronaviruses like SARS (originated in Asia in 2003) and MERS from Saudi Arabia in 2012, both of which are known to cause mild upper respiratory disease.  However, the latest strain responsible for the 2019 COVID-19, had not been seen in humans until now.   Its virulence is such that it causes severe acute respiratory syndrome which may result in serious illness up to and including death.   

The Center for Diseases Control (CDC) recommendations vulnerable populations i.e. youngsters, the elderly and those with compromised health, avoid close contact with people that have tested positive for coronavirus.   Furthermore, the CDC calls for cleaning and disinfecting as people can be infected by touching surfaces or objects that may have virus deposits.  This however, is not thought to be the ideal vehicle for the transmission of the virus.  At present, good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing are strongly recommended especially after using the bathroom.  Sick people are advised to stay home in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus which occurs most frequently from person-to-person contact.  It is further suggested to stay approximately 6 feet from those who are sick.   Caution must be exerted whenever infected people cough or sneeze as the respiratory droplets can be inhaled by those in close proximity.  In addition, wearing a facemask is useful as it can prevent the virus from infecting others especially hospital workers and home attendants.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with the coronavirus infection are fever, cough and shortness of breath.   

At this time, the general population is aware of the infection risks, and it’s causing a good deal of rational anxiety even fear about the virus’ lethal characteristics and its rate of spreads.  Being concerned is normal.  As new cases are identified in other parts of the world and in the United States preventative public health interventions and important changes are underway.  The need to remain calm, collect and vigilant is critical.  Properly vetted scientific information is key and remaining wide-eyed and alert can lead to a more positive outcome of keeping the virus at a distance.       

Outbreaks of this magnitude should not be the catalyst for the myriad of behavioral, sociological, public health policies and measures to be renewed and put on the public health map.  Rather, precautions must be universally consistent.

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