Coronavirus update: Get essential answers from U.S. experts in these videos and articles

With novel coronavirus in the news, there are many questions on many minds.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate fever and cough. It can cause more severe illness including pneumonia for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

This compilation of frequently asked questions attempts to provide some answers to the most common queries:

Why do they call it coronavirus?

These viruses are spherical with a halo of protein spikes on their surface that are crown-like in appearance.

Should everyone be wearing masks?

Definitely not. At least not in America, where the government has had time to identify and start monitoring people at key points of entry for symptoms of coronavirus. Those who are at risk of infection are told to stay home until the possible incubation period of the virus passes, and those with the highest risk have been held in quarantine facilities on military bases until the quarantine period passes.

If everyone goes out and buys a mask or two (or three), it will put further strain on supplies needed by health care workers who really do need these resources to avoid getting sick doing their jobs. Also, since coronavirus spreads inside large water droplets that land in your eyes, nose or mouth, or when one person touches another, wearing a mask alone wouldn’t necessarily prevent you from becoming infected if someone who was sick coughed or sneezed on you.

How does coronavirus kill?

It’s like any other respiratory virus such as influenza. Inhaled water droplets with virus particles inside get into the lungs, and your immune system immediately tries to get them out, either my flooding them with mucous that you can cough out or by causing inflammation of the tiny air sacs inside your lungs that are critical for moving oxygen from the air you breathe into your bloodstream. These immune system reactions can be so forceful that they cause a patient to essentially suffocate. But, if you get to the hospital soon enough, there are many modern techniques to reduce inflammation and support your breathing until your immune system naturally fights off the infection.

Why is coronavirus so deadly?

Actually, it’s really not. The mortality rate for coronavirus is somewhere between 1% and 4%, though epidemiologists think that rate will decrease further once they have time to account for all of the infected people who never sought medical care. This is not ebola, which has a mortality rate of around 90%.

If people are surviving the virus, why don’t we ever hear about them?

According to a recent report from the World Health Organization, the vast majority of people who have been infected have survived. Now, it is the case that some of the people who are currently sick might still die, but this ratio of deaths to confirmed cases has held for weeks, suggesting that most people who get infected survive.

What can I do to avoid getting infected?

The main thing is to stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who has coughing or sneezing symptoms, though, if they do, they’ve probably got a common cold rather than novel coronavirus. Regular hand washing also helps a lot for preventing all types of respiratory infections.

Why are they calling coronavirus COVID-19?

It’s sort of a medical acronym. CO stands for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year when the current outbreak started. The World Health Organization followed international naming protocols designed to avoid stigmatizing any certain place, people or animal. Remember when “swine flu” in 2009 angered pig farmers who said their product was being unfairly cast in an unfavorable light?

Should I be worried that some US cities have declared a coronavirus emergency?

This is largely something that bureaucracies do to bring more resources to the table when they feel like they’re dealing with a problem that is growing quickly. So if you live in a place that is in an emergency zone, then yes, pay attention. But if not? Don’t panic. Just stay informed.

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