The spread of a new coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, has sparked concern worldwide. So far, there are more than 83,000 confirmed cases across 60 countries, with China accounting for more than 78,000 of them.
As concerns rise, so do questions about what's happening and how people can be prepared.
According to Google Trends data, these are the top 10 things people are searching about the coronavirus.
1. What is the coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, (MERS). The coronavirus that is currently spreading in many countries was first seen late December 2019. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019”. Prior to this, the virus was called the 2019 novel coronavirus, meaning it was a new strain of coronavirus discovered in 2019.
2. How do I prepare for the coronavirus?
The CDC says there has been at least one possible case of community spread in the U.S., but it doesn't seem prevalent. As there is currently no vaccine or treatment to prevent or deal with COVID-19, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid exposure. The Centers for Disease Control recommends maintaining personal preventative actions such as:
- Avoiding close contact with those who are sick
- Not touching your eyes, mouth or nose, especially with unwashed hands
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Stay home if you are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
CDC says the risk to the general public is still low, nevertheless Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC's director of the National Center for the Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said individuals and communities should begin preparing for a potential outbreak in the U.S. by implementing "non-pharmaceutical intervention methods."
Parents should inquire with local schools about outbreak plans, including whether or not schools will close and if there will be remote schooling options. Parents should also plan to have childcare options available in case schools do close.
Businesses should avoid in-person meetings and replace them with teleconferences. Employees should inquire about options to work remotely when possible.
Communities can also modify, postpone of cancel large gatherings to limit risk of exposure.
3. How many people have died from the coronavirus?
Globally, COVID-19 has affected more than 83,000 people and killed more than 3,000. The latest figures reported by government health agencies can be viewed in this interactive graphic:
4. How many cases of the coronavirus are in the U.S?
As of March 3, there are 108 cases of persons infected with the virus in the U.S. Of those infected, 48 of then involve people repatriated to the U.S. from Wuhan, China or from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship that was quarantined in Japan.
There are 60 total cases of infection detected in the U.S. through public health surveillance systems. 22 of these 60 cases are travel-related, and 11 are believed to be through person-to-person spread. The sources of 27 infections are still under investigation.
Cases have been reported in 12 states.
The CDC provides updated numbers on U.S. cases of the virus on its website.
This was also the seventh most searched question about the coronavirus.
5. How did the coronavirus get started?
COVID-19 was first detected in the city of Wuhan, China in Hubei Province. Initial infections were linked to a wet market in Wuhan that sold both live and dead animals. The World Health Organization states that coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted from animals to people. It is likely that the virus was transmitted from an animal at the market to humans, but a specific source has not been identified.
Since then, the virus has spread person-to-person.
6. How is the Coronavirus spread?
SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person, mainly between people who are in close contact (within 6 feet) with each other. It is spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on the noses and mouths of over people, who then inhale them.
The CDC says it may be possible for the virus to spread by touching a surface or object with the virus, but this is not thought to be the main method of spread. As the virus was only discovered a few months ago, more research is needed to further determine the spread pattern of the virus.
8. What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?
According to the CDC, patients with COVID-19 have mild to severe respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Patients with severe complications could develop pneumonia in both lungs.
9. Where did the coronavirus originate?
COVID-19 is believed to have originated from an animal, as coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted from animal to human. Health officials have not yet determined the specific species that originated the virus.
10. Is the coronavirus worse than the flu?
The answer to this one isn't totally known yet. Since COVID-19 was discovered recently and has been spreading for just a few months, health officials are still doing research to determine important facts like how contagious it is, how fatal it is, how long it will last, etc.. There are too many unknowns to definitely say which one is worse.
Here's what we can compare:
The seasonal flu, which includes influenza A and influenza B viruses and COVID-19 are both contagious viruses that cause respiratory distress. The viruses share some symptoms: fever, cough and shortness of breath. Flu symptoms also includes muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and vomiting and diarrhea.
While there is a vaccine for the flu, there's not currently a vaccine for the new coronavirus.
The flu is also one of the viruses that spreads more during cold weather months, so flu season tends to ease up when it gets warmer. It's too soon to know if weather or temperature impact the spread of COVID-19 or whether it will be a seasonal occurrence, according to the CDC.
When it comes to comparing which one is "deadlier," things get tricky. Chinese scientists who looked at nearly 45,000 confirmed cases in the current COVID-19 outbreak concluded the death rate was 2.3%. However, there are questions about whether all cases were counted and some infected people with only mild symptoms may be missing from that tally.
According to Dr. Brenda Baxton of Adventist Health in Oregon, the majority of people infected with COVID-19 will get better. "About 82% of cases tend to be mild," she said. "What we see is their symptoms diminish over five to seven days. They’re still capable of transmitting the disease. But that’s how it will play out for most people. When you look at people who have higher risk, including heart disease, diabetes, asthma and other vascular disease problems, they’re going to be at higher risk of having a more severe disease."
On the other hand, the flu’s mortality rate is 0.1%, yet it kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year because it infects millions. So the size of the outbreak matters as much as the lethality in terms of how deadly a disease is.