No matter which media outlet you get your news from, they all seem to be discussing the same thing – the coronavirus.
This new type of virus made its first contact humans in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. It has since spread to other countries and while it has not been declared a pandemic, it’s still a concern for parents around the world.
So, what do you need to know about the coronavirus? We spoke with an infectious disease specialist from Macomb and an internist from Detroit about the hype and what parents really need to know about this new infectious disease.
“Coronavirus is a group of viruses that can affect your nose, sinuses and upper throat,” says Dr. Shaun Jayakar, internist from Ascension St. John in Detroit. “The 2019 novel coronavirus is a new respiratory virus, which causes respiratory infections ranging from mild to severe for humans.”
There are different types of coronavirus – including SARS and MERS.
“Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory System (MERS) both come from animals,” says Dr. Anthony Ognjan, DO, an infectious disease specialist at McLaren Macomb. “MERS is the worst one so far and second place goes to SARS – these types of virus’ are found in bats, pigs and cats.”
Symptoms are very similar to the common cold and the flu, which makes it hard to distinguish if a person has the coronavirus or not, says Dr. Ognjan.
“(It) can start exactly like (the flu),” he explains. “Severe muscle ache, fevers, cough or generalized weakness.” The only difference is, “This one jumps right down deep into the lungs and cause severe pneumonia,” he says.
“There are always cold viruses circulating, which are actually part of the coronavirus group,” says Dr. Jayakar. “Everyone should take standard precautions, like washing hands, keeping ill kids home from school, coughing away from people and staying away from sick people. Remember: it’s in the same group of viruses as the common cold.”
This is why it is important to wash your hands – with soap and water and not just hand sanitizer.
“Probably the most important thing to do is wash your hands and make sure they’re clean with soap and water, at least a couple times a day,” adds Ognjan. “Stay away from sick people and stay away from people if you are sick” to reduce the spreading of the virus.
Also, keep your “hands away from mouth and face – I don’t know how effective the masks really are,” he says. “Eat and drink well and stay in good physical shape and of course, get the flu vaccine.”
Is it a concern for parents?
As of this article’s publication, the novel coronavirus is acting similarly to the flu in terms of death rates.
“People that die from it seem to be very young or very old,” says Ognjan. “It is very fluid right now” and numbers keep changing. “The death rate is 2%-3%, exactly like influenza,” he says.
And all of the potential cases in Michigan were found to be negative, adds Jayakar.
“The risk of getting the novel coronavirus in Michigan is low – there have only been five confirmed cases in the USA,” he says, adding that there is no treatment for novel coronavirus, outside of supportive care like fluids, rest and breathing treatments.
In addition, there is no vaccine for the virus yet, though experts are in the process of developing one.
Still, there is no need to panic.
“It’s not (really) in America yet. When it happens, the Health Department will alert the doctors and the media. Right now, 99% (of flu-like symptoms) will most likely be the flu and not the coronavirus,” says Ognjan.