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The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Feb. 14, 2020

Microscopic view of a gray spherical virus with red triangular envelope proteins protruding around the surface

Dr Kathleen Reeve, Associate Dean of the University of Houston College of Nursing, provides helpful information about the coronavirus based on her experience as a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP). Her perspective does not necessarily represent the views of the University of Houston. 

Is the coronavirus something new?

The coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s in the nose of an individual suffering from upper respiratory symptoms. That strain of coronavirus is the cause of the common cold and other mild respiratory infections. Most people have had coronavirus during their lifetime. Adults have up to 4 colds a year, which are related to the coronavirus. Unfortunately, the immunity to the virus is short-lived.

Portrait of a smiling woman with short dark-brown hair wearing glasses

Is the coronavirus like the flu?

The coronavirus is not a cause of influenza (the flu). General symptoms of coronavirus are runny nose, sneezing, headache, cough, sore throat and a low-grade fever in some individuals predominantly children. The symptoms of a cold occur gradually while flu symptoms occur abruptly. Symptoms of flu are more severe and almost always include fever/chills, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and extreme fatigue. There may also be vomiting, or nausea associated with the flu.

Can I get coronavirus shopping in Chinatown or at a Chinese restaurant?

The 2019-nCoV virus, like most viruses, is transmitted from person to person when a person coughs or sneezes and another person breathes it in, or through close contact such as shaking hands. Coronaviruses can spread between people in close contact. This type of transmission requires that individuals be within 6 feet of one another. It is not yet clear whether it can be transmitted by touching a surface or objects that has the virus on it and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this form of transmission is common among viral infections. It is suspected that SARS, MERS, and 2019-nCoV may spread from infected animals to people through contact.

Why can’t I just get a shot for coronavirus?

To date, there is not an immunization available to prevent the viral infection. Symptoms of the 2019-nCoV occur 2-14 days after infection and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms range from mild to more serious such as pneumonia.

What kind of mask or goggles should I wear to protect myself?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands regularly, especially before eating or touching the face, and covering sneezes and coughs. People with a compromised immune system should avoid crowds. If an individual is experiencing symptoms of the virus, they should notify a healthcare provider and report any recent travel or contact with infected individuals or animals. Individuals that are ill should stay home from work and school to prevent transmission, rest and maintain fluid intake.