What is the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is a new respiratory virus that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, in China. The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, which presents as a pneumonic syndrome. Many of the earlier patients in China had links to a seafood and animal market, suggesting the virus was spreading from animal-to-people. However, a growing number of patients have reported no exposure to animal markets which indicates that the virus is spreading person-to-person. It is unclear how the virus is spreading between people at this time. The genetic tree of SARS-CoV-2 is being analysed to determine the specific source of the virus. (ref https://nextstrain.org/ncov)

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of these viruses cause illness in people and others circulate among animals, for example camels, bats and cats. There are several known coronaviruses that infect people and usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least two previously identified coronaviruses have caused severe disease, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, SARS-CoV, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, MERS-CoV. SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV are NOT the cause of the current outbreak.

What are the symptoms and complications caused by SARS-CoV-2?

For patients with confirmed infections with SARS-CoV-2 reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include:

  • cough
  • fever
  • shortness of breath

The CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure.

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2

It is not clear yet how SARS-CoV-2 spreads from person-to-person, however, there are indications that person-to-person spread is occurring, likely between close contacts. Officials are working to understand the implications of possible transmission from infected but asymptomatic persons.

Previous coronaviruses causing illness in people include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS. When person-to-person spread occurs with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. The spread of MERS and SARS between people generally occurred between close contacts.

Infection Control and Prevention

How COVID-19  Spreads
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.

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.

Spread from contact with contaminated 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.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.

Limit the spread of germs

Adopt good personal hygiene and avoid others if you become sick.

Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just washed your hands.

When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm, not your hand.

Stay home if you are sick. Do not visit people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick.

Get your flu shot. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can ease the burden on the healthcare system and protect others.

Should I wear a mask?

There is no reason to wear a mask if you are well. Masks should be limited to those who are sick or those who are taking care of someone who is ill. There is little evidence that wearing a mask in public prevents a healthy person from becoming ill. Masks may increase risk, as people continually check their masks and touch their faces without first having washed their hands.

 

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