Basic questions about the coronavirus, answered
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the novel coronavirus, officially called Covid-19, and scientists around the world are racing to gather data and develop a treatment.
Here’s what we can tell you so far:
- Is there a cure? There’s no cure, but patients can be treated for symptoms and may recover. The US National Institutes of Health said it’s also working on a vaccine — but it would take months for clinical trials to begin and more than a year until a vaccine might be available.
- What are the symptoms? Coronavirus symptoms can look like the flu — a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.
- How does the virus spread? The virus is thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets emitted by coughing or sneezing. There’s also a possibility the virus can exist in and spread through contaminated fecal matter. Hong Kong authorities are exploring the possibility of the virus spreading through plumbing and pipes. There’s currently no evidence that the virus is airborne — meaning, for instance, it doesn’t travel across a large room.
- Who is at risk of infection? People of all ages can be infected with the virus, but older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable to severe complications.
- How can I protect myself? Take the same precautionary measures you would during flu season. Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with people or large gatherings, and wear a face mask.
The novel coronavirus has spread throughout the world since the first cases were detected in central China in December. Five people have died outside of mainland China from the virus — in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and France.
There are now at least 780 confirmed cases in over 28 countries and territories outside mainland China:
Australia (at least 15 cases)
Belgium (at least 1 case)
Cambodia (at least 1 case)
Canada (at least 7 cases)
Egypt (at least 1 case)
Finland (at least 1 case)
France (at least 12 cases, 1 death)
Germany (at least 16 cases)
Hong Kong (at least 57 cases, 1 death)
India (at least 3 cases)
Italy (at least 3 cases)
Japan (at least 414 cases, including 357 on cruise ship, 1 death)
Macao (at least 10 cases)
Malaysia (at least 22 cases)
Nepal (at least 1 case)
Philippines (at least 3 cases, 1 death)
Russia (at least 2 cases)
Singapore (at least 75 cases)
South Korea (at least 30 cases)
Spain (at least 2 cases)
Sri Lanka (at least 1 case)
Sweden (at least 1 case)
Taiwan (at least 20 cases, 1 death)
Thailand (at least 35 cases)
United Arab Emirates (at least 9 cases)
United Kingdom (at least 9 cases)
United States (at least 15 cases)
Vietnam (at least 16 cases)