Rumors and conspiracy theories have been swirling around the recent outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus that has claimed the lives of more than 100 people and infected more than 6,000.
Much is still being learned about the previously unidentified respiratory virus, which was first detected in China but has made its way to the United States and other countries around the world.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health officials are still working to identify the source of the virus.
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats,” according to the CDC. “Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China, reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting the virus likely emerged from an animal source.”
Genetic analysis is ongoing to determine the specific source of this virus.
“This virus probably originally emerged from an animal source but now seems to be spreading from person-to-person,” the CDC said. “It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so.”
The CDC says is not yet clear how easily this newly identified coronavirus spreads from person-to-person.
“When person-to-person spread has occurred 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 CDC said. “Spread of MERS and SARS between people has generally occurred between close contacts.”
According to the CDC, there currently are no vaccines available to protect against the new virus, and no specific anti-viral treatment is recommended for infection.
However, everyday preventative actions that will help limit the spread of respiratory viruses include:
• washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
• avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
• avoiding close contact with people who are sick and staying home when you are sick;
• covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash; and
• cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.
Those who think they have been exposed to the virus should contact their health care provider immediately.
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