The coronavirus isn't anything new, but this particular strain is. In rare events such as this one, viruses can transmit between species, like the SARS outbreak that started in 2003. As a matter of fact, the virus which causes COVID-19 (coronavirus diesase 2019) is SARS-CoV-2. Because this strain is so new to humans, scientists and doctors are still learning about it's transmission and effect on the body. Though coronovirus and the flu are very similar, they are caused different viruses (coronavirus and influenza). As is true with the flu, the people who are most at risk are those who are immunocompromised, meaning their immune system isn't up to par. These people include the elderly, and those suffering from underlying, severe, chronic conditions (aka comorbidities) like heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. Most of the reported cases (80% according to WHO) of COVID-19 are considered to be mild and some patients don't show any signs at all (which is making it difficult to track), but those who are high risk can suffer from more severe symptoms, complications, and even death, so it is of the utmost importance to protect these individuals.
According to the CDC, studies of the virus' pathogenesis and stability are still being conducted. With the information we currently have, it's believed that the virus is primarilry spread by close contact with fluids of those who are infected and showing symptoms. What does this mean? Being within 6 feet of someone who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 and is coughing or sneezing without covering their mouth (c'mon). This spreads droplets full of disease to those in the vicinity and if those droplets land in anyone's mouth, nose, or eyes, they now have the potential of becoming ill, or a carrier to spread the virus to other people. At this point in time, this coronavirus is not considered to be airborne; meaning the virus-droplets can hang out in the air and infect others even after the infected individual has left the area. Though it is possible to contract the virus from someone who is not showing symptoms, or from touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, these are not believed to be significant routs of infection. It is not yet known how long the virus can survive on surfaces. One study theorizes that it can last anywhere from 4 hours to three days but has not yet been peer reviewed. Another study based it's predictions on similar coronaviruses (including SARS) to estimate it's longevity but may not be accurate.
Given it's known behavior, the virus is classified as spreading easily (contagious) and sustainable (continuing to spread), leading to community spread (not everyone in the community knows how or where they caught the bug). Lucky for us, it's very easy to prevent further spreading which leads us to...
As with any disease, the best way to treat it is to prevent it from developing in the first place. Especially since there is no treatment at this time. In this case, we apply the same tactics we used in kindergarten: good hygine!
1. If you're not feeling well, STAY HOME! And especially avoid contact with friends or family members who are considered high risk. Even if you think it's only a cold, STAY HOME. Do I really have to explain why? I didn't think so, but I will anyway. YOU may survive the virus just fine, but others may not. If you must leave your quarantined zone (like to see your doctor or acupuncturist for example (yes, I can help)), be sure to wear a mask or cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing by aiming into your elbow or using a disposable tissue and then immediately disposing of it. Please don't cough or sneeze into your hand and then go touching everything. It's gross. You're an adult. You should know better.
2. Wash your hands. Wet your hands, apply soap, and lather up while singing Happy Birthday or the Alphabet or counting to 20...whatever floats your boat. THEN rinse them under running water. Make sure you wash before you touch your face or anyone else's. No soap nearby? Use hand sanitizer. No excuses. Remember that gloves don't make you invincible. They carry germs just as your hands do. If you're wearing them, dipose of them after touching whatever it is you must touch.
3. Clean frequently used surfaces. The more people who touch the area, the higher the risk of spreading germs. If the area is dirty, wash it with soap and then follow with a disinfectent. Since every store on Long Island is currently out of stock of Clorox Wipes, follow the CDC's suggested DIY disinfectents. It would also behoove you to wash any items you purchased before storing them in their proper place.
Please do not prepare for quarantine unless you are actually at risk of being quarantined. If you are quarantined, remember that you only need supplies for 2 weeks, not a zombie apocalypse. I recently learned that some hospitals must ration their supplies because the rest of us are hoarding them. Be mindful of those who are truly in need of these items: healthcare professionals, emergency response teams, and those listed above who are considered high risk.
Now that you're armed with this information, may the odds be ever in your favor.