What you need to know about coronavirus
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold. Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.
For those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young, there’s a chance the virus could cause a lower, and much more serious, respiratory tract illness like pneumonia or bronchitis.
There are a handful of human coronaviruses that are known to be deadly.
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How it spreads
Viruses can spread from human contact with animals. Scientists think MERS started in camels, according to the WHO. With SARS, scientists suspected civet cats were to blame.
When it comes to human-to-human transmission of the viruses, often it happens when someone comes into contact with the infected person’s secretions.
Depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Caregivers can sometimes be exposed by handling a patient’s waste, according to the CDC.
There is no specific treatment. Most of the time, symptoms will go away on their own.
Doctors can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication. The CDC says a room humidifier or a hot shower can help with a sore throat or cough.
Drink plenty of fluids, get rest and sleep as much as possible.
If symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, see your doctor.