What We Know about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

A new strain of respiratory virus, known as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, has been making headlines for weeks. An infectious disease expert explains what we know, so far, about the virus.

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CLEVELAND – A new strain of respiratory virus, known as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, has been making headlines for weeks, but how does it affect us?

According to Frank Esper, M.D., and infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, symptoms from the novel coronavirus have ranged from those of a mild cold to people becoming severely ill.

“A lot of the symptoms from the people who have been sick with this virus, for the most part, are still fever, cough, respiratory problems; mainly lung problems,” he said. “If you get really, really sick from it, you get pneumonia.” 

According to reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), most people sickened by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus reside in China.

Additional cases of coronavirus are popping up in other countries, including here in the U.S., but so far, most of the cases are people who recently traveled to China.

Dr. Esper said many of the people who tested positive for novel coronavirus are well enough to forego hospitalization and receive care in their own homes.

He said recent reports show most people who became very sick from the novel coronavirus are adults – mostly men with an average age of around 50.

However, only about a third of the people who became very sick had underlying heart or lung problems, which tells us this virus has the ability to make people, who are otherwise healthy, very sick.

Dr. Esper said the best thing people can do, to remain vigilant against any respiratory virus, is practice good hand hygiene with soap and water (or an alcohol-based hand rub), cover coughs, avoid contact with those who are sick, and stay home if experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms.

He also urges people to be aware of how often they touch their faces.

“Avoid contact from your hands to your eyes, to your mouth, to your nose; because that’s basically what happens – the virus gets onto your hands, and then from your hands, it gets into your mouth and nose by you just rubbing or scratching, or eating,” said Dr. Esper. 

Dr. Esper said anyone planning to travel internationally should visit the CDC website for the latest information and recommendations, which are updated frequently.

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