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The Novel Coronavirus

Watching the news, you may have come across stories covering the spread of the novel coronavirus. Originating from Wuhan City, China, there are now a total of 5 cases confirmed in the United States, two of which are in Southern California: Los Angeles and Orange County. On January 28, it was also reported that a possible case of the coronavirus may be present in a San Diego Hospital, but we are still awaiting a confirmation. With the virus potentially being so close to home, I hope this post can equip us with both the necessary precautions and education to help us understand this coronavirus outbreak.

What is the coronavirus?

The coronavirus is a broad term referring to a family of RNA viruses that can infect both animals and humans. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that originated from Saudi Arabia and spread to the United States in 2012, as well as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) were both caused by a type of coronavirus.

The strain originating from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China is called the “Novel Coronovirus” or “2019-nCoV.” This strain was not previously identified in humans until the reported December 2019 pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan. As of January 28, 2020, there are more than 4,500 cases reported in China, 106 of which have been fatal. Since December, new cases have emerged in many countries, including: Australia, United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, France, Germany, Vietnam, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia, Macau, and United Arab Emirates.

The 2019-nCoV is primarily associated with its ability to cause varying degrees of respiratory infections. In fact, the first death reported was due to respiratory failure. Symptoms may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. More serious cases include the development of bronchitis and pneumonia. Non-respiratory symptoms reported include nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal irritation such as diarrhea.

The virus can affect us in various ways. To some, recovery occurs after a few days, but to others, the virus can be fatal. Young children, elderly, and those with suppressed immune systems are particularly more vulnerable to the virus.

How does the coronavirus spread?

The human coronavirus can spread in the following ways:

  • through the air via sneezing or coughing

  • touching an infected individual and consequently touching one’s face, nose, or eyes

  • touching an area where the virus sits and consequently touching one’s face, nose, or eyes

  • through fecal contamination (although rare)

What extra precautions should we take?

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available yet to protect against 2019-nCoV. However, we can take everyday precautions to help decrease our chances of infection. These include:

  • washing hands frequently

  • avoiding face touches

  • if possible, avoiding proximity to those who are sick

  • disinfecting surfaces

  • if sick, staying home to avoid additional transmission to others


Although there is a growing awareness of the coronavirus, it is believed that the chance of transmission is relatively low in the United States. Additionally, the mortality rate associated with the coronavirus is approximately 5%. When comparing the coronavirus to the common flu, the common flu has an average mortality rate of 35,000/year and an average diagnosis of 200,000/year nationwide. The flu vaccination is a major method in which we can prevent the flu. The everyday precautions mentioned above are additional methods we can implement to decrease the transmission of the flu.

It should be noted that the 2019-nCoV is a newly discovered virus. Therefore, as additional research is conducted and our understanding of the virus increases, the knowledge we know pertaining to transmission and prevention may change. Good resources to turn to for more guidance include Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).

By: Erika Bernardino


Ellerin, Tod, MD. (2020, January 25). The new coronavirus: What we do — and don’t — know. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, January). 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China. Retrieved from

Sisson, Paul. (2020, January 28). San Diego County’s still waiting for test results on possible Coronavirus test. The San Diego Tribune. Retrieved from countys-still-waiting-for-test-results-on-possible-coronavirus-case.

World Health Organization. (2020, January). Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Retrieved from

Ricard, Paul, AFP. (2020 January 29). Here is the Science on how serious the Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Actually is. The Science Alert. Retrieved from

New York Times. (2020 January 27). Alarm Grows as the Markets Tumble and Death Toll



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