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What Is Coronavirus and Should You Worry About a Pandemic?

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What Is Coronavirus and Should You Worry About a Pandemic?

With all of the information and misinformation going around lately, many people are wondering what is coronavirus and is it time to start worrying about the reality of a global pandemic?

In this article we’ll review information provided by the CDC, WHO, and other government sources to help summarize answers to those questions.

Once you’re finished reading this article, you’ll understand what the coronavirus is and how serious the reality of a pandemic really is.

What Is Coronavirus?

It’s unfortunate that the media and everyone else are referring to the newest coronavirus as a “coronavirus”. This is because the word actually refers to a very large group of viruses that have been around for a long time.

These viruses most commonly cause the “common cold” that people deal with during every winter season. Some of these viruses also lead to more serious diseases like SARS. When a new coronavirus appears in humans, it’s called a “novel coronavirus”.


The coronavirus family of viruses originate from animals. There are many coronaviruses that are transmitted between animals, but never affect humans. However, coronaviruses can mutate and become transmissable to humans. This transmission requires that humans come in contact with infected animals. Once transmitted to humans, this new strain can then transmit to humans, depending on how contagious it is.

In general, the large bulk of coronaviruses are not very dangerous. The main symptoms include a fever, cough, and respiratory problems — usually difficulty breathing and sometimes pneumonia.

What Is the COVID-19 Coronavirus?

The correct term for the latest novel coronavirus of 2019 is COVID-19. Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 was centered in Wuhan, China, experts believe that the original animal-to-human transmission took place there. On February 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled this new strain “2019-nCoV”, or “COVID-19”. It is also being called “SARS-CoV-2” by health experts. COVID-19 and SARS share about 80% of their genetic structure.

This doesn’t mean it’s the same virus as SARS, only that it is “related” to that original strain, which also caused acute respiratory syndrom (SARS) in humans.

Many people believe that these diseases often arise in China because of the cultural Chinese practice of eating animals that most humans rarely eat.

This can be very dangerous in the case where an animal is infected with a new coronavirus strain. Any amount of undercooking that may take place could increase the chances of transmission to humans. Transmission can also take place while those preparing meals are handling the live animals.

In fact, experts have traced the first infections involvingĀ COVID-19 to a live animal market in Wuhan City.

The rate at which coronaviruses transmit between humans relates to how contagious the virus is. What is unnerving about COVID-19 is that scientists still aren’t sure how contagious this particular strain is. However, they do know that the period of time before symptoms become obvious is about two weeks.

Is the COVID-19 Coronavirus a Pandemic?

While the initial outbreak of COVID-19 started in Wuhan City, and despite the fact that the Chinese government quarantined the city, the virus has already spread outside of China.


The current situation globally around the spread of COVID-19 (as of February 25, 2020 according to WHO) is as follows (most infected cities):

  • 64,786 cases and 2,563 deaths in Hubei province, China
  • 12,994 cases and 103 deaths throughout the rest of China
  • 977 cases and 10 deaths in the Republic of Korea
  • 311 cases and 2 deaths throughout the rest of the Western Pacific region
  • 42 cases and 0 deaths throughout South-East Asia
  • 63 cases and 0 deaths in the U.S. and Canada
  • 229 cases and 6 deaths in Italy
  • 50 cases and 1 death throughout the rest of Europe
  • 61 cases and 12 deaths in Iran
  • 35 cases and 0 deaths throughout the rest of the Middle East
  • 691 cases and 3 deaths on the Diamond Princess cruise ship

Deaths per confirmed cases, given the rates above, range between 1% to 3%.

Coronavirus Symptoms

How do you know if you’ve contracted the coronavirus? Unfortunately, it can take up to 2-14 days before you see any symptoms at all. And the symptoms associated with the coronavirus aren’t particularly unique.

sick woman

According to the CDC, they include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

However, most experts advise that unless you’ve traveled to China within the past 2 weeks or you’ve come in contact with someone who has been confirmed as having COVID-19, you most likely do not have the virus.

It is true that this new novel coronavirus is much more deadly than the seasonal flu, but even so it is still not very dangerous. Roughly 0.06% to 0.1% of influenza cases end in death. About 2.3% of 2019 coronavirus cases end in death.

The most danger is in the case of the elderly. The death rate is 14.8% in patients over 80, 8% for patients between 70 and 79, and for those already critically ill the death rate was 49%. In most of those cases death was related to acute respiratory symptoms.

How to Avoid Getting COVID-19

Many people right now are nervous about getting COVID-19, despite the fact that they may be healthy and not at very high risk of even facing fatal consequences from infection. In fact, most people in countries where infection rates are low are relatively safe.

According to the CDC, you can reduce your risk using the same advice medical professionals give for avoiding the seasonal flu.

  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Keep your hands away from your mouth, eyes, or nose
  • If you get sick, stay home
  • Frequently disinfect surfaces that a lot of people touch
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating

The easiest way to avoid viruses of all types is avoiding large crowds if possible. Also, keep your hands away from your face, and avoid touching any food you eat. Staying conscious of your hands and what you put in your mouth will go a long way toward keeping yourself safe.

The CDC currently advises that “the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low” for the general American public.

Can the 2019 Coronavirus Get Worse?

To gauge the long-term impact of the 2019 coronavirus on the world, there is a historical event that can help to predict this. That is the Spanish Flu.

According to the World Health Organization, the fatality rate of the 1918 influenza pandemic (known as the Spanish Flu), was roughly the same as COVID-19 – about 2%. So, why did the Spanish Flu kill roughly 50 million people across the globe by the time the pandemic was over?

This was due to the high transmission rates of the virus, similar to COVID-19. Many people were infected by the Spanish Flu, but most survived. However, because the virus could be transmitted so rapidly – especially during World War I when both military camps and urban areas were overcrowded and unsanitary.

spanish flu military hospital

One could say that COVID-19 poses the same danger to the world as the Spanish Flu did. But there are different schools of thought around whether or not such a pandemic will be worse or better today than it was back in 1918.

COVID-19 can infect a person and present no symptoms for up to two weeks. This means that person could continue carrying on with daily life, visiting supermarkets, restaurants, and other areas where surfaces they touch come in contact with many other people. Two weeks later, there’s no telling how many other people they’ve infected.

Also, in 1918 the skies were not filled with airliners, every day, carrying thousands of people across the world. The ease of transportation today will surely lead to much more rapid global transmission.

Why COVID-19 Won’t Be As Bad As The Spanish Flu

On the other hand, the medical community of today is much more advanced than it was in 1918. The public health response to COVID-19 includes all of the following:

  • The CDC has deployed 497 staff across the U.S. and the world set up quarantine stations at U.S. ports of entry. They’re assisting local medical staff in testing and quarantining anyone who is infected.
  • CDC teams are working at airports to screen travelers coming into the U.S. from China.
  • Americans are being evacuated from hardest hit countries and keeping them in a 14-day quarantine.
  • Most companies are banning travel to countries with the highest rates of infection.
  • Anyone at risk for having been in an area at high risk for COVID-19 are being tested.
  • Treatment for acute respiratory issues related to COVID-19 is much more effective today than it was during the Spanish Flu

It’s also important to note that the first wave of the Spanish Flu wasn’t as deadly as the second wave. And many experts believe the second wave was more deadly because of the confined areas where people were quarantined along with medical staff, and medical staff not using appropriate protective gear to avoid getting infected themselves.

The CDC has been working closely with medical communities across the world to ensure quarantine locations are handled to today’s standards of dealing with highly infectious diseases.

For these reasons, many experts believe the impact of COVID-19 will be far less extensive than the 1918 influenza pandemic.


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