The New Dangerous Virus
By now you've heard the news: the coronavirus – a serious illness that started in China – is making its way around the world. But what is the coronavirus? Coronavirus is actually a family of viruses named for their shape (having a crown). The new version making headlines today is officially called COVID-19 and appears closely related to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that also originated in China in 2003. Both seem to have originated in bats and spread to humans. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, COVID-19 is also called SARS-CoV-2.
What We Know
While the virus is still new to humans, a fast response has allowed health officials around the world to make observations that can inform everyone on ways to recognize and control the spread of the disease.
- Shortness of breath
- Fever (though not all patients will have one)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea
You may wonder why an illness with fewer symptoms than influenza already has a reputation for being so dangerous. For patients with other underlying health problems – the elderly, young children and people with already weakened immune systems – the symptoms may be severe and even lead to death. If this sounds familiar, we hear the same thing every year about the flu, and it's true. Currently, we have vaccines for the different versions of the flu, but since COVID-19 is still new, a vaccine is not yet available.
Current Infection and Mortality Statistics for the Coronavirus vs. the Flu
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the main way the coronavirus is spread is through close contact with an infected person – within 6 feet – through respiratory droplets that are produced when the person coughs or sneezes. A secondary way may be by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth after touching a surface that has the virus on it.
The CDC has recently updated its recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19. While the guidelines are similar to those for preventing the flu, one recent, notable addition is the wearing of a cloth mask out in public. Other recent updates are italicized below.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home as much as possible and put distance between yourself and other people.
- Stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Immediately throw the tissue away.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others. It's meant to protect other people in case you are infected and asymptomatic. Do not use a face mask meant for a healthcare worker. Our DIY face mask can be enhanced with our MERV 13 filter media to create a barrier between you and others. Continue to keep 6 feet between yourself and others even when wearing a mask.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Practice other good health habits such as cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
One final way to assist with flu and coronavirus prevention is to consider installing a MERV 13 rated air or furnace filter in your home or business. MERV 13 filters capture airborne viruses and bacteria from coughs and sneezes. While there's no guarantee a strong air filter will protect you from the coronavirus, clean air helps keep your immune system strong. Be sure to change your filters regularly because clean filters mean cleaner air.