The novel coronavirus outbreak has gathered a lot of attention: from ill-advised jokes circulating on the internet to people genuinely scared over just how dangerous it is. By this point, everyone is aware of this, yet might be lacking the understanding of what exactly it is.
At the end of January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel outbreak a public health emergency.
There doesn’t seem to be much talk about the coronavirus on campus.
“I know it started back over winter break, and that there’s been some speculation about how severe the outbreak is in China,” said second-year Eric Holst.
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans,” according to WHO’s website. Some coronaviruses cause illnesses such as the common cold or something more severe such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The current outbreak is considered a novel coronavirus (CoV) because it is a new strain that had not been identified in humans. It is now called 2019-nCoV and had not been detected prior to the outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
MedicalNewsToday.com explained the initial reports made connections of the virus to a seafood market in central Wuhan, which was closed down on Jan. 2. Assessments later suggested the market wasn’t solely to blame as some of the infected people did not go to the market often.
It is not yet known what the specific source of the virus is.
2019-nCoV spreads from person-to-person in close contact. It is thought to mainly occur through respiratory droplets that an infected person produces when coughing or sneezing, similar to how the flu or common cold spread.
However, this doesn’t explain just how dangerous the new coronavirus is. As of Feb. 9, the outbreak exceeded the death toll of the 2002-3 SARS epidemic (774 people worldwide), killing over 900 people in China alone, according to The New York Times.
The numbers seem pretty scary, but the symptoms can vary from person to person and the amount of deaths compared to the amount of people infected is not as high as people may expect. Estimates suggest the death rate is in the range of 2 to 3 percent, according to MedicalNewsToday.com.
Compared to other coronaviruses, 2019-nCoV seems to be more infectious, but is less likely to lead to death.
The Coronavirus can cause mild symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough or fever. More severely, it can cause pneumonia or difficulty breathing and more rarely, it can become fatal. Those who are older or have pre-existing medical conditions “appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus,” explained WHO.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that symptoms may appear within two to 14 days after being exposed.
The best way to prevent becoming infected is to avoid being exposed to the virus, according to the CDC. They also recommend everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.
There have been eight confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in California, as of Feb.13. Coronavirus patients on the Diamond Princess cruise ship may be quarantined at Camp Roberts, however this has not been confirmed yet, according to The Californian.
“It stresses me out a bit, but from what I’ve heard, campus is aware of it and has made warnings to not come to campus if you may be sick,” Holst said. “Most American cases have been quarantined relatively quickly, so the risk of spread seems relatively low.”