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COLD & FLU

Coronavirus: Important Facts & Prevention Tips

February 20, 2020

Symptom Guides > Cold & Flu > Coronavirus: Important Facts & Prevention Tips

by

Dr. Neil Brown

With 20 years of ER experience, Dr. Brown has worked at top US hospitals including University of Illinois, Chicago and IU Health Arnett Hospital.

Worried your symptoms may be coronavirus?

Check your symptoms with K and chat with a doctor in minutes

In late 2019, a novel coronavirus emerged affecting thousands of people in the Hubei Province of China. Though the outbreak is serious and our current understanding of this new disease is still evolving, if you are living in the U.S., there’s no need to panic.

 

What we know so far are that symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are “non-specific” and are similar to those of the common cold or the flu. If you don’t have cold or flu-like symptoms, haven’t traveled to China in the last 14 days, and haven’t been around someone with COVID-19, you likely do not have coronavirus. 


We currently have more questions than we do answers. If you’re worried your symptoms may be coronavirus, chat with a K Health doctor today. Here’s what we know so far (plus we’ll update this article as new information becomes available!):

• What Is Coronavirus?
• Known Coronavirus Symptoms
• Prevention and Safety Tips
• Don't Believe These Myths About Coronavirus
• How K Health Can Help

What Is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of illnesses that cause respiratory infections ranging from a mild cold to more severe pneumonia and less commonly, death. Coronaviruses are highly contagious. They are most common in animals like birds, pigs cattle, camels, dogs, cats, and bats, but are zoonotic, meaning that very rarely, specific strains can pass from animals to humans, and later, from humans to other humans. When that happens, those coronavirus strains can be difficult to contain. 

 

In December 2019, a new human coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 began developing into an illness called COVID-19 first seen in patients in China. Since that time, Chinese health officials have reported tens of thousands of cases in the Hubei province and other parts of mainland China. A growing number of other countries, including the United States, have reported incidents of COVID-19 but only in citizens who had traveled through Wuhan City. 


In late January 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization had declared the new virus a “public health emergency of international concern,” which is the sixth time this declaration has been made in the last ten years. In China, the risk for getting coronavirus is high but in the U.S. the odds are very low. People in the U.S. are at much higher risk of catching the flu than they are of coronavirus.

Known Coronavirus Symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now believes that COVID-19 symptoms can appear between 2-14 days after initial exposure.

 

According to a study conducted on patients in Wuhan City, common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

 

 

Patients also reported the following symptoms:

 

Influenza vs. coronavirus

 

Influenza, or the flu for short, is a viral infection that affects some or all of your respiratory system including your nose, throat, sinuses, and lungs. The flu is a highly contagious virus that travels through the air in droplets when a person talks, coughs, or sneezes. You can also catch the flu by touching an infected person (or object an infected person touched) and then touching your face.

 

The most common symptoms of the flu are extreme fatigue and weakness and a fever over 100.4° F (38° C). However, not everyone with the flu will have the same symptoms and you may also experience:

 

  • Muscle pain

  • Headache

  • Dry cough

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Runny nose

  • Sore throat


There are many overlapping symptoms of the flu and coronavirus. These symptoms are also similar to other common illnesses such as pneumonia or the common cold. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and have not traveled to China in the last 14 days or been around someone with COVID-19, you are much more likely to have the flu than coronavirus. For reassurance, feel free to chat with a doctor using the K Health app.

 

Prevention and Safety Tips

Avoiding the disease entirely is the best way to keep from getting sick. Given the concentrated numbers of COVID-19 cases within China, the US Department of State has issued a level four travel advisory urging all Americans to avoid non-essential travel to the country until further notice. 

 

As a reminder, the hygienic habits listed below are the best way to keep respiratory infections like the cold, flu and other, more common coronaviruses at bay:

 

  • Avoid contact with people who are ill 

  • Get your influenza vaccination 

  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces and frequently touched items

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze

  • Wash your hands properly

Do I need to wear a surgical mask?

 

There’s no need to rush out and buy surgical masks. The CDC does not suggest wearing face masks as a precautionary measure to protect against coronaviruses or other diseases given that they aren’t very effective. However, they do recommend face masks to patients who are currently ill in order to protect against spreading the disease to others.

Don't Believe These Myths About Coronavirus

There’s a lot of misinformation being shared in the media and on the Internet about coronavirus—it can be hard to know what to believe. Below are a few common myths about coronavirus to keep an eye out for:


 

Can I get coronavirus from my cats or dogs?

 

While it’s true that some strains of coronavirus are present in cats or dogs, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted by animals. There have been no cases reported involving pets. Regardless, it’s always a good practice to wash your hands after petting or playing with your pets.


 

Can I get coronavirus from products or letters shipped out of China?

 

According to the CDC, coronavirus particles die a few hours after leaving a host cell therefore it is unlikely that imports from China will carry the disease overseas. If you receive mail or packages from China, you are not at risk of contracting COVID-19.


 

Is there a cure or vaccine for COVID-19?

 

There is currently no vaccine for this new coronavirus. Existing vaccines, such as the pneumonia vaccine, are not effective in treating COVID-19. COVID-19 needs it’s own vaccine, which is currently being researched and developed.

 

Antibiotics are also ineffective in treating COVID-19. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, not viruses.

 

Anyone claiming to offer a cure, medicine, or vaccine is making a false claim. Rumors that cannabis, homeopathics, and even air fresheners cure coronavirus are untrue and sources that share this disinformation are not reliable.

How K Health Can Help

With so much information about coronavirus in the media, it’s easy to confuse flu or cold-like symptoms with those of COVID-19. Chances are, you probably have a more common illness like a cold or the flu. However, if you’re looking for reassurance you can always check your symptoms with K and chat with a doctor who can chat with you in minutes.

“In December 2019, a new human coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 began developing into an illness called COVID-19 first seen in patients in China.”

Worried your symptoms may be coronavirus? Download K Health and check your symptoms.

by

Dr. Neil Brown

With 20 years of ER experience, Dr. Brown has worked at top US hospitals including University of Illinois, Chicago and IU Health Arnett Hospital.

Get Answers, Fast.

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app? Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

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