ORLANDO, Fla. – As concerns over the coronavirus pandemic continue to grow, more questions are surfacing.
What is COVID-19? How does someone get it? How deadly is it? Can it be treated? The list goes on and on. And while there aren’t answers to every coronavirus-related questions out there at this time, there are a few things everyone should know.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus is the general name given to a very common virus that usually doesn’t cause serious illnesses (in fact, the common cold is a type of coronavirus). Health officials believe Wuhan, China was the epicenter of this never-before-seen strain as it jumped from animals to humans. In the very early stages of the outbreak, health officials referred to it as SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). You will also see it referred to as “novel coronavirus,” which means “a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified.”
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Is COVID-19 more contagious than the flu?
According to health experts, yes. Health officials know that COVID-19 spreads by contact and fortunately, is not airborne, like the measles. You basically get it by touching a surface someone who is contagious touched before you, through direct contact or by being within about six feet of someone who is infected. In a typical flu season, each person with the flu infects 1.3 other people, according to the New York Times. So far, with COVID-19, the infection rate is running at about 2.2 people.
Is it deadlier than the flu?
Short answer: Also yes, but with caveats. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the seasonal flu, on average, kills about 0.1% of people who are infected with it. The 1918 flu, which was very contagious, killed about 2% of the people who caught it -- tens of millions by the time it wound down. COVID-19 was initially trending at about 2%, but a new report from the New England Journal of Medicine has it at about 1.4%.
Will COVID-19 kill me?
If you go strictly by the odds, probably not. Most coronavirus patients recover. There have been almost 140,000 reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, yet only 3,347 people have died from it (3.42%). That’s higher than 1.4% or 2%, but health officials believe more people have the virus and have not yet -- or won’t be -- diagnosed. Some people are more vulnerable to the disease than others: Those who are elderly, have a compromised immune system, have diabetes or a chronic medical condition like cardiovascular disease. Children seem to be the most resilient part of the population, with a lower percentage of infection.
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Will wearing a mask protect me from COVID-19?
There are mixed answers to this one. The answer most officials will agree on is that more needs to be known about COVID-19 to see how effective a mask would be to prevent you from getting the virus. Health officials do know that masks help stop the spread of any virus when worn by someone already infected. However, one thing a mask will do for you is prevent you from touching your nose and mouth, which is recommended in trying to stop the spread of COVID-19.