Coronaviruses are a family of infectious viruses that cause upper and lower respiratory infections. Although typically benign and self-limiting, a few more virulent coronavirus syndromes have emerged in the past decades, notably the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) in the Middle East and eastern Asia, respectively. Interestingly all three viruses are probably zoonotic, meaning they may have originated from an animal reservoir like bats.

COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China in December, 2019 and has spread throughout Asia and Europe, with a few cases in North America and North Africa. As of February 19, 2020 there have been 75,286 cases identified and 2009 deaths attributed to this virus, although these numbers only reflect laboratory confirmed cases. Kansas City, Kansas, and Missouri have no known case. Most cases spread person to person by exposure to respiratory droplets or contact with infected surfaces.

At this time risk of Americans not exposed is thought to be low. The incubation period is 4-7 days, followed sometimes by fever, cough, myalgia, and shortness of breath. The disease may worsen during the second week of illness, particularly for those with more severe disease. Definitive diagnosis may be made from a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab using polymerase chain reaction, although this test is not universally available to all patients. Some patients have low white blood cell counts, others high. Abnormal liver function tests and chest x ray abnormalities are common in sick individuals. It is presently believed that 5/6 people infected develop mild disease. Underlying liver disease, kidney disease heart disease, and diabetes are thought to bee more vulnerable to the virus.

Presently there are no proven antiviral treatments, although there are antiretroviral trials underway in China. There is no vaccine presently, although efforts at developing one are underway.

How to protect yourself:
1) Frequent handwashing or alcohol based hand rubs
2) Practice respiratory hygiene, meaning covering mouth and nose with any cough or sneeze, washing after coughs and sneezes, and disposing of tissues immediately.
3) Maintain three feet of social distancing.
4) 4avoid touching nose, face, and mouth
5) Avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products
6) Practice good respiratory hygiene when in meat or animal markets
7) WHO recommends masks for those with coughing or sneezing.

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