In late December, a novel illness originating in Wuhan, China, made the news. Reports of the number of infected people swiftly rose, and isolated cases of this new coronavirus — dubbed COVID-19 by scientists — has appeared in 31 countries and territories around the world and one international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan). At first, it was reported that those who had been stricken had contact with a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, a large city in eastern China. It has since become clear, however, that the virus can spread from person-to-person contact.

At press time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed fifteen cases that have been diagnosed, in addition to 39 cases among repatriated persons from high-risk settings, for a current total of 53 cases in the United States and two fatalities. Even though there are more reports of the virus spreading every single day, the World Health Organization has not declared it a pandemic.

Thus far globally, the total confirmed cases of coronavirus is 89,847 with a cumulative death toll of 3,069. The virus attacks men harder than women, and the fatality rate is likely to be higher in adults over age 50.

There have been claims by “experts” that Black people are resistant to the virus. These reports are definitely false! From scientific evidence, there is no medical proof that African blood is resistant to coronavirus.

The coronavirus outbreak has widened in other countries. The virus continues spreading fast in South Korea, Iran and esepcially to Italy, prompting increased travel warnings and restrictions. The potential for mild or even asymptomatic cases to go undetected but still spread the virus has been noted repeatedly by health officials as one of the biggest challenges in fighting the disease. It makes the virus a deceptive enemy.

Meanwhile, in this country, there is growing fear of the virus. Many are now scared of flying and going on cruises. Chinatowns and Chinese restaurants across this nation have become ghost towns. Some restaurants have signs on the windows announcing that the interior and its surfaces are disinfected daily, in an attempt to reassure worried diners. Surgical face masks, alcohol, hand sanitizers, disinfectants, toilet paper, bleach, bottled water and ibuprofen have been flying off the shelves at retailers.

As far as folks freaking out over not being able to find face masks, the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams, said in a post recently on the official Twitter account of the U.S. Surgeon General: “Seriously people. STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

Here’s the 411 on what we do — and don’t — know about this coronavirus and what it may mean for you.

  • What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses attack the respiratory system and are found in both humans and animals. Corona is the Latin word for crown that describes the spiky fringe that encircles the viruses. Most coronaviruses infect animals, such as bats, cats, and birds. The new, or “novel” coronavirus, now called COVID-19, had not previously detected before the starting point of the outbreak was reported in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the center of the Chinese city. It’s likely that an animal source from the live animal market in China was responsible for some of the first reported human infections. 

  • What are the symptoms?

The virus responsible is diagnosed by taking a sample of respiratory fluids, such as mucus from the nose, or blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus can lead to severe pneumonia and causes fever, muscle ache, coughing, fatigue, and breathing problems. There are also some reports of folks experiencing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. In very severe cases, organ failure is possible. When there is pneumonia, antibiotics serve no purpose. The antiviral meds used here to help combat the flu do not work when stricken with the coronavirus. Recovery truly depends on a strong immune system. Those who have already passed away from the virus were reportedly in poor health.

  • How does coronavirus spread?

When an infected person coughs, they can spray respiratory droplets of saliva that can reach the eyes, nose, and mouth of others; these are the port of entry for germs. Still, some scientists claim that these types of germs can lie on surfaces for hours, and touching the infected droplets on them and then touching your mucosal membranes (in the eyes, nose and mouth) can make you ill. The virus can also spread through contact with an infected person’s feces.

  • How long is the coronavirus incubation period?

The incubation period, which means the time between the infection and the onset of the disease’s symptoms, can range from one to twelve days with a median estimate of five to six days.  It may be possible that infected individuals be contagious before showing any signs of the virus.

  • Are there any meds that can prevent or treat coronavirus?

Unfortunately, there are thus far no known medicines that can work against the virus because it is a virus. Antibiotics work on bacterial infections. For those who are very sick with the virus, aggressive treatments have been put in place. The victims are cared for in an intensive care unit of a hospital. Drug experimentation is under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials.  

  • Should you panic?

No! Unless you’ve been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus. Fortunately, public health officials in many countries, including the U.S., have put safety measures in place to help stem the spread of the virus. These sweeping measures include health screenings at major airports in the US for travelers, major sanitation efforts, the closing of schools, the avoidance of large crowd gatherings, and social distancing. Some cities have even imposed strict curfews.

  • How can you protect yourself against coronavirus?

Practicing common sense when in contact with someone who has a respiratory illness is the best prevention tactic. Wash your hands regularly. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands. Steer clear of folks with respiratory illnesses, those who are coughing, sneezing, or have runny noses. Be sure to dispose of any used tissues and maintain hygiene around the home.

  • So what’s next?

What do scientists think will be the outcome of this virus? Well, perhaps a vaccine or antiviral will be quickly created to stop the virus from spreading. Perhaps the upcoming warm weather will slow the progression of coronavirus. According to Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Coronaviruses are winter viruses,” Fauci said. “When the weather is warm and moist, these viruses don’t spread as well as when the weather is cold and dry.” Other clinicians speculate that coronavirus might just die out just like the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, more commonly known as SARS did back then. Eight months after SARS circulated and did its damage, it just died out.

But as cases of coronavirus increase daily, it appears less likely that history is going to repeat itself. The virus’ path suggests containment will be much more difficult than with SARS and the harm much greater, scientists predict.