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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

An outbreak of the coronavirus (now called COVID-19) in China is causing global concern. It came from a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, China, in December. It has since spread to other countries, including the United States.

Despite Wuhan and other Chinese cities being quarantined, the COVID-19 has spread to almost 70 locations internationally. In the U.S., COVID-19 cases have been confirmed and deaths have been reported.

What is a coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a virus that is found in animals and, rarely, can be transmitted from animals to humans and then spread person to person. In addition to COVID-19, other human coronaviruses have included:

  • The MERS virus, or Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The SARS virus, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which first occurred in the Guangdong province in southern China.

What are the symptoms of a coronavirus?

COVID-19 symptoms range from mild to severe. It takes 2-14 days after exposure for symptoms to develop. Symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

Those with weakened immune systems may develop more serious symptoms, like pneumonia or bronchitis. You may never develop symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19. So far, most confirmed cases are in adults, but some children have been infected. There is no evidence that children are at greater risk for getting the virus.

What causes a coronavirus infection?

Humans first get a coronavirus from contact with animals. Then, it can spread from human to human. Health officials do not know what animal caused COVID-19.

The COVID-19 virus can be spread through contact with certain bodily fluids, such as droplets in a cough. It might also be caused by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your hand to your mouth, nose, or eyes.

How is a coronavirus diagnosed?

If you believe you have COVID-19, you should contact your family doctor immediately. Before going to the doctor’s office, call with your concerns. This will allow the office to collect information and offer you guidance on next steps. To diagnose you, your doctor may run tests to rule out other common infections. In some cases, your doctor may suggest you self-isolate to prevent the spread of infection. The FDA has also seen unauthorized fraudulent test kits for COVID-19 being sold online. Currently, the only way to be tested for COVID-19 is to talk to your family doctor.

Can a coronavirus be prevented or avoided?

Practice social distancing. Avoid people who are sick or meeting in large groups. Stay home if you are sick. Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your upper sleeve or elbow. Do not cough into your hands.

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. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

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