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Why the new coronavirus is a concern
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Coronavirus concern: why it exists

COVID-19 is a concern for several reasons, including how it evolved. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — Is the media going overboard with coronavirus concern? Doctors and health organizations around the world don’t think so, because they are concerned about COVID-19 (Coronavirus 2019). And for several reasons.

This coronavirus is unique

This virus jumped from the animal population to humans, meaning it is zoonotic.  And while zoonotic diseases are not uncommon, they are also not the norm.

Coronaviruses are respiratory diseases found in animals.  If left untreated, in animals, they are usually fatal.

Similar to SARS

Part of coronavirus concern stems from its similarity to SARS. In 2003,  SARS was detected in healthy adults.  SARS is a form of coronavirus and historically CoV type illnesses were mild and associated only with common cold symptoms. But the fatality rate for SARS was over 10-percent in the humans who contracted it. That was a cause for concern.

Veterinarians have long recognized the deadly effects of coronavirus strains in animals, like the porcine epidemic in the 1970s and 1980s.  That strain emerged from an unknown source. It was a new strain, like COVID-19.

Now, another new strain of coronavirus is infecting humans.  The origin is believed to have started in a food market in Wuhan, China.

Fast-moving virus

One reason for the world-wide headlines is the unprecedented speed with which COVID-19 spreads.  In some instances, more than a thousand new cases have been reported in a single day, along with dozens of deaths.  And while this strain does appear to be easily contracted, the death rate is about 2-percent.  Much less than SARS or even influenza.

Reported cases of coronavirus from Washington Post article.

Many unknowns

Another reason for intense media attention is that doctors are trying to combat a virus to which humans have never been exposed.  There are no antibodies available to fight COVID-19.

And, since the coronavirus mutated from animals to humans, it’s unknown if it will mutate again.  To date, all of the nearly 100,000 cases were transmitted by direct contact.  Now, a person in California is reported to have COVID-19 without ever traveling to China or having been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

Unlike the flu, where vaccines are available to help prevent the spread of the disease and doctors know exactly how the virus will progress, there are still a lot of unknowns in the human body with this new virus.

Good news – the spread is slowing

The good news is, the spread of the illness in China appears to be slowing.  But, cases are increasing almost everywhere else in the world.

Health officials say common sense still applies.  Wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, and don’t go into public places if you have any type of cold or flu symptoms.

Below is a list of the most common ailments associated with COVID-19.

  • feeling short of breath
  • having a cough that gets more severe over time
  • a low-grade fever that gradually increases in temperature

And doctors say wearing a face mask in public can help prevent any germs being transmitted from yourself to others, but they are not secure enough to prevent virus droplets from other people getting behind the mask and infecting you.

Doctors and health organizations say wearing a mask may not prevent someone from becoming infected with the new coronavirus. Instead they recommend frequent hand washing and keeping hands away from your face. (Image credit, Getty Images)