The new coronavirus: What we do — and don’t — know

Todd Ellerin, MD

Contributor

Editor’s note: Because the situation around the 2019-nCoV coronavirus is changing rapidly, the most recently updated information will be available from these sites:

Summary of outbreak and response from the CDC
Information on symptoms, prevention, and treatment (CDC)
US situation summary (CDC)
International summary (World Health Organization)


A rapidly evolving health story broke in late December when 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 2019-nCoV by scientists — have appeared in several countries due to international travel. At this writing, almost 1,300 confirmed cases and over 40 deaths have occurred in China, according to an article in the New York Times.

Fortunately, public health officials in many countries, including the US, have put measures in place to help prevent further spread of the virus. These measures include health screenings at major airports in the US for people traveling from Wuhan. In China, travel restrictions are in effect.

With information changing so quickly and every news report about the virus seeming to raise the stakes, you may be wondering how worried you should be. Here’s a primer on what we do — and don’t — know about this virus and what it may mean for you. While there is much we don’t yet understand about the virus, public health officials, medical experts, and scientists are working in collaboration to learn more.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are an extremely common cause of colds and other upper respiratory infections. These viruses are zoonoses, which means they can infect certain animals and spread from one animal to another. A coronavirus can potentially spread to humans, particularly if certain mutations in the virus occur.

Chinese health authorities reported a group of cases of viral pneumonia to the World Health Organization (WHO) in late December 2019. Many of the ill people had contact with a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, a large city in eastern China, though it has since become clear that the virus can spread from person to person.

What are the symptoms of this coronavirus?

The symptoms can include a cough, possibly with a fever and shortness of breath. There are some early reports of non-respiratory symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Many people recover within a few days. However, some people — especially the very young, elderly, or people who have a weakened immune system — may develop a more serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

How is it treated?

Scientists are working hard to understand the virus, and Chinese health authorities have posted its full genome in international databases. Currently, there are no approved antivirals for this particular coronavirus, so treatment is supportive. For the sickest patients with this illness, specialized, aggressive care in an intensive care unit (ICU) can be lifesaving.

Should you worry about catching this virus?

Unless you’ve been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus — which right now, typically means a traveler from Wuhan, China who actually has the virus — you’re likely to be safe. In the US, for example, only two cases of the virus have been confirmed so far, although this is likely to change.

While we don’t yet understand the particulars of how this virus spreads, coronaviruses usually spread through droplets containing large particles that typically can only be suspended in the air for three to six feet before dissipating. By contrast, measles or varicella (chickenpox) spread through smaller droplets over much greater distances. Some coronaviruses also have been found in the stool of certain individuals.

So it’s likely that coughs or sneezes from an infected person may spread the virus. It’s too early to say whether another route of transmission, fecal-oral contact, might also spread this particular virus.

Basic infectious disease principles are key to curbing the spread of this virus. Wash your hands regularly. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue (then throw it away), or your inner elbow. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands. Stay home from work or school if you have a fever. Stay away from people who have signs of a respiratory tract infection, such as runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.

In the US, the average person is at extremely low risk of catching this novel coronavirus. This winter, in fact, we are much more likely to get influenza B — the flu — than any other virus: one in 10 people have influenza each flu season. It’s still not too late to get a flu shot, an easy step toward avoiding the flu. If you do get the flu despite having gotten the vaccine, studies show that severe illness, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death are less likely to occur.

The bottom line

Given the current spread of this virus and the pace and complexity of international travel, the number of cases and deaths will likely to continue to climb. We should not panic, even though we are dealing with a serious and novel pathogen. Public health teams are assembling. Lessons learned from other serious viruses, such as SARS and MERS, will help. As more information becomes available, public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) will be sharing key information and strategies worldwide.

Related Information: Cold and Flu

Comments:

  1. Nathan

    I see news posting percentages of how many people who contract the virus die, but why isn’t anyone giving info on people who contract the virus and naturally recover?? Are people recovering, and if so at what rate, and in what time period?

  2. Shelly Vieth

    How to know if one is at a medical facility capable of diagnosing Coronavirus?

  3. J. D. Olson

    Has the “WHO” established categories of certain types of people who are dying at a higher rate than the ( So called ) “normal people”?
    If so, what are the parameters of this sub group… Who are getting extreemly sick quickly and dying at a higher rate. Who is at the greatest risk of death from contracting this Virus?

  4. Rebeca Delgado

    If you receive a package in mail , ordering online, should you open it? Thanks

    • Branda

      I would be very weary about shopping online at amazon, aliexpress and the many other sites that ship from China. Coronavirus is much like the flu which means we can catch it by handling items that are infected. Doors, counters, food produce etc which has been handled by someone with the virus should be considered a risk. I would definitely NOT order anything that is coming out of China, and I usually don’t but now even less. Be vigilant and you should be fine.

    • Tina

      I’m wondering the samething. I have a package coming from China. I think I’ll leave it on my porch for a few days before I open it. It says the virus can only live up to 7 days. That will be around 7 days until I open it. And when I do, I’m washing it a couple times (its pants)

  5. Gabriella

    Can you get it from going to the gym and touching dirty equipment?

    • Branda

      It is transmitted just like the flu which means, yes. You can get the virus by handling anything that has been handled by someone infected. Scary.

  6. Roben

    How long can Coronavirus survive in open? Some say not very long, some say 7 days. Which is true

  7. Sharon

    Harvard we need daily or semi-weekly updates, please? The news seems to be growing by the hour if The Guardian is at all a reputable source.

    Thank you

  8. Cat Schrodinger

    Imagine quarantining New York or Los Angeles or Washington D.C. and saying “it’s because of the flu”. Or England completely cutting off all flights to and from China almost instantly and saying “it’s from something similar to the flu”.

  9. ann

    How can you protect yourself in corona virus?
    how did you know if that person have an corona virus?

  10. Karen McBride

    Can the virus be carried on products from China. Just want to make sure. I ordered a hair product on line and it arrived from China. Is it safe to open and use?

  11. David Nesbit

    No, there is no vaccine specifically for treatment of the novel coronavirus.

  12. vishnu vardhan

    there is a chance to recover when this virus attacked to human being is there any solution to recover

  13. jo

    It is a good information about coronavirus, but I do not see here the contributors ‘s reply to our questions except us readers just sharing our views and opinions and sharing sources as well. Well, the CDC site is the best reliable and legit source . Harvard Health blog uses CDC as their reference of any infectious disease. Thanks to Harvard Health Bloggers, information like this is helpful to public. My question is ,, is it airborne transmission?

  14. Patricia Ann Rist

    Do people over 65 have protection from pneumonia from the carona virus if they have had the pneumonia vaccine

  15. George

    Will being vaccinated against pneumonia help to fend off that part of a coronavirus infection?

  16. Ed

    Thank you for this article, it’s super helpful. I’m hoping you could also help answer a few questions:

    #1> Is it true to say that if you get the seasonal flu shot that it would likely help to reduce the impact of 2019 nCov if you do get infected (but not provide immunity), because you would be less vulnerable? This is assuming no per-existing health conditions, and I’m thinking along the lines of the flu shot reducing likelihood of severe illness when you do get the flu despite having gotten the shot.

    #2> Is the large population, tight crowding, and generally lower sanitary/hygiene standards in China versus North America, a likely reason why we are seeing such rapid person-to-person transmission rates compared to confirmed cases in United States and Canada from people who have returned from Wuhan? So far in US and Canada, the only people who have not been to Wuhan that have been infected, were spouses of the first cases.

    #3> Sorry, I have to ask a few questions on masks. Since N95 masks are effective against the spread of the regular flu in crowded places, is it similarly effective for preventing infection from the 2019 nCov if you are in crowded places where some individuals may quite possibly be infected? For example, in Toronto, all international travellers at the airport Arrivals section share the same very crowded lines at customs. So if I’m travelling from Florida to Toronto, I will end up waiting in line for up to an hour possibly right next to a traveller returning from China as well (who may or may not be infected). And a number of the China travellers have actually been in Wuhan recently! There is currently no medical screening other than a question being asked at a shared kiosk and by the customs officer after waiting in line with everyone else. Should I avoid Toronto’s airport, if that’s the case or would a mask likely be good enough protection in that specific situation?

    #4> If someone who is infected with the 2019 nCov sneezes, what is the distance that it can remains active? I have heard that the micro-droplets from sneezing can float further than with coughing in general. How about sneezing with the regular flu?

  17. Chaplain Paul Vescio

    The flu and the Corona-Virus is yet another wake up call in a long string of very harmful viruses. The question is, how to better protect our selves and our loved ones from possible infection? The answer or I should say part of the solution is in washing hands often, The CDC recommends washing hands often in order to reduce the risk of infection. Think about how many things we touch in a single day. The gas pump and the credit card machines, the elevator buttons, all of the buttons at the self checkout at the grocery store. The grocery cart, door handles, faucets, our cell phones, computer keys, handles, money, we touch and handle things in the store all the time. The list goes on and on and we don’t even think about the fact that infection is easily spread this way.

    If you or someone in your family is dealing with the flu then it wouldn’t hurt to have that person wear a surgical mask and gloves. This helps to reduce the spread of infection in hospitals. If you or some one in your family works in a nursing home or hospital setting then have them remove their shoes when they return home. Use bleach wipes to disinfect shoes. Wipe down all can goods, bottles and containers before bringing them into your home.

    Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands often, as a Community Chaplain I see all to often how easy infection spreads in a hospital setting. Remember try not to cough or sneeze into your hands, stay home if you are sick. Do not visit anyone in a hospital or nursing home setting if you are sick or even have a cold. Above all pray for God’s guidance, protection and love in these matters and remember what proverbs 3:5-6 teaches, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths…Amen” God Bless You From Chaplain Paul Phoenix Az

  18. Barry Cohen

    How long can the 2019 Ncov Coronavirus survive on a hard surface or dust particles to infect people that come in contact with these surfaces?

    • Jeff

      I know that the CarTcell treatment for cancer , produces stem like features on the white blood cells in which they then call them super cells. And those stems stay with the white cells for a long time or the rest of your life. People also said that had allergies, that they no longer had them. Do you think that these super white blood cells from this CarTcell treatment could put up a good fight against the Coronavirus.

    • Ravi

      21 days

  19. Roxanne

    Has anyone with the corona virus gotten better?

    • John Dohrmann

      I am an American citizen, was in Wuhan for three days in December, got the virus and started recovering on day four, but I was VERY sick for 3 days. Felt like death. Gave it to my girlfriend and she recovered as well.

      Question, if I had it, does that make me immune?

  20. Logendra Naidoo

    Since the virus is airborne within a 2-3 foot person-person range, has any research been completed to determine if dead airborne virus is – once it comes in contact with say moisture under prime conditions i.e. temperature, no UV, etc. – becomes active again?

    For example, noroviruses and parvoviruses can last for weeks, or even several months on surfaces, yet poor old Ebola can’t even tolerate a few hours away from moisture.

  21. Bin

    The cured patients have the chance been infected again or they will immune on this virus?

  22. Maria

    Hi there
    I just found this blog and I would like to ask. What about the chances for ppl that work at airport. Should be necessary to stay at home. Even at the moment no one at work is sick. But there are lot is ppl with flu already which is a bit confusing. Not saying they are already sick with coronavirus. As well we see passengers walking around with masks etc but at the moment we do not know how dangerous is going to work at airport. What do you think?

  23. Liz

    I strongly believe that there is a cure for this virus. If scientists, researchers, and other individuals were able to find a cure for the Ebola Virus that was also claiming lives; I strongly believe that if they can somehow carry on some experiments with the Ebola cure further and perhaps add more to the ingredients just perhaps lives can be saved. There’s nothing wrong with being creative and at least giving it a try.

  24. Siddharth

    Thanks for this resourceful article.

    I got influenza this past few days and I am quite panicking because I can’t distinguish between this and the Coronavirus so can anyone sent me the difference between this infamous Virus and influenza.

  25. Tinfoilhat1

    If someone has had the Wuhan Corona Virus, are they then immune to getting it again?

    Is there any indication how quickly it mutates, making previous immunity not effective like the evolving strains of the flu? ?

  26. Larry Skilling

    How long does the coronavirus illness last? I cannot find the answer to this anywhere.

  27. Jennifer

    I ordered some cool shoes. They are sending them from China. What if someone with the virus handled my product? Could I or anyone that that touches my package get the virus. Need to know if I should cancel. I ordered it Jan 7th. It’s still in China.

  28. Simon

    If you were in Wuhan AND has any of the primary or secondary symptoms, I suggest you visit your doctor or ER. The virus has approximately 1 week of incubation period, and the symptoms could vary according to the infected person’s respiratory health.

  29. Claudine Laguerre

    Can you catch this virus through food for example food prepared in a restaurant by a potentially infected employee ????

  30. Kelly

    Will the patient get any lungs function damage for the life time after cure the coronavirs?? I mean once they cure the lungs function are as good as before????no side effects at all??

  31. Aaron

    How long does the cdc diagnostic take? The have not updated the stats on about 80 Americans under observation that have been tested several days ago?

  32. James Vey

    How long can the Corona virus germ live on skin or a surface like a table top after being transferred to, or coughed on?

  33. Jake Robinson

    If infected and you have a healthy immune system, how deadly is the virus and can natural remedies like drinking water and treating yourself with natural things for health help you get back to a healthy state?

  34. Cheryl

    Can the virus spread through products shipped from China to another country? Online shopping is trending and most products are from this country.

    • ivory

      Cheryl I am wondering about it too.. i received an item that has other items in it … i didn’t want to open it so i set it in a place where no body goes… the article above says it will disapate @ 6 feet… that doesnt tell me how long it will live on items sent from there… if there is someone who knows please answer Cheryl and my question ty

      • Kk

        If infected person throw his /her mouth mask
        Outside . (Means like parking area and playing area. )
        It (mask)also spread the virus through by air ??
        Whoever walking in that area also get infected ??

    • Kim Vuong

      The virus is transmitted from to human to human. Although products from China went through many hands, it is highly unlikely to get infected by products.

    • Emma

      I would think it would be highly unlikely the virus would survive outside of a host for more than 24-48 hours.

    • Dominic Petkus

      Yes it is possible, however viruses struggle to survive without living things. Some viruses can survive up to 7 days without biological contact.

    • Dave Sancrado

      No. The virus exists in water/mucous droplets and lives for a very short time outside the host.

    • Bob

      Cheryl, the current research and analysis shows that this particular (current) form of the virus can only survive outside the body for a limited time. So most likely a shipped package would not be infectious. However, some shipped products (food) can harbor contaminants longer, so ensure to cook any foods at recommended temps and lengths of time.

    • Al

      ANSWER

      Likely not.

      EXPLANATION

      We relied on the experts at the Centers for Disease Control for the answer to this one.

      In a brief on Monday, Dr. Nancy Messonier, the director of the CDC’s Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said there was no evidence to support that theory.

      “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” Messonnier said.

      The takeaway – wash your hands and sanitize commonly used items as much as you can, especially in public places.

    • Laura

      There is no evidence this is a risk. Some diseases – including the coronavirus that causes Sars – can spread through surfaces contaminated by people coughing or sneezing on them.
      It has not been shown this new coronavirus can do that. Even if it could, there would still be questions about whether international shipping would be a major problem.
      Cold viruses tend to survive less than 24 hours outside the human body although norovirus (a severe stomach bug) can last months outside the body.
      The most reassuring fact so far is that cases seem to require close contact with another person – say, a family member or healthcare worker – in order to spread.

    • Barry Tuji

      a virus requires a living organism to stay alive, and since this is a respiratory based virus, it is very unlikely.

    • RMS

      No it cannot. Virusses don’t survive for long outside the human body.

    • John Tobiesen

      Very unlikely. The virus cannot survive outside the body for long time.

    • Logendra Naidoo

      Right now virologists are working to determine how quickly the virus can spread between people and at what stage the disease is most communicable . Scientists measure a virus’ communicability and transmission by calculating a number known as “R-nought” (or “R0”).

      “As Chinese health officials confirmed more and more cases of 2019-nCoV, scientists around the world rushed to estimate R0 for the new virus. Last week, several reports placed the figure between 2 and 3, while the World Health Organization reported that the virus’s R0 falls slightly lower, at between 1.4 and 2.5. Other estimates have surpassed this range, hovering above 3.5. But what do all these numbers really mean?

      For context, know that diseases with an R0 below 1 typically disappear from a population before becoming widespread, as infected people recover faster than the bug can be transmitted to new hosts. “In general, you want an R0 below 1; that’s how you know the disease is under control,”

      Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing held Monday (Jan. 27). An R0 above 1 suggests that a given disease will continue to spread, but the number doesn’t reveal how quickly transmission will take place.”; “Imported goods from China should not carry infectious strains of the virus, especially given that most coronaviruses can survive on surfaces for only a matter of hours”

      – SOURCE https://www.livescience.com/how-far-will-coronavirus-spread.html

    • Jason

      Doubtful, it only lasts 24 hrs, possibly days on carpet and such. Only 5 h If the product takes 7-14 days to arrive its about impossible. Otherwise we would have more infections worldwide. Have been shown to survive on surfaces for several days, their ability to cause an infection reduces rapidly and they don’t often survive longer than 24 hours.

    • Jamie

      I suspect only if the product is living and breathing. Viruses need a host to survive.

  35. C. Solomon

    Are datâ documenting those who have recovered available? How is first confirmed case of virus doing? Patient was hospitalized on January 20 in Seattle, 10 days ago. Any reports of his progress, any new, useful information about the course of the disease? His recovery would be heartening to all of us.

    • Alan Hollen

      That would not be good for media. Great and logical question. My understanding is the earliest cases are better or trending better. Influenza has killed far far more people this winter.

  36. Ratan Hospital for Women and Children

    The possible symptoms for Corona Virus are cough, cold, fever, problems in breathing, pneumonia. Vomiting and loose motion in some cases are also seen. The patients who are diagnosed with the disease are treated for the symptoms of the disease and not the disease. If you feel anything related to this, get yourself checked at the earliest with your concerned doctor.

  37. shanda

    how long can it live on fabric ! im a fashion blogger for a living .. im sent packages from china daily of clothing i have to wear and shoot ! this has got me scared to even open the packages .. and no one is giving details and surface life.

    • Jill Schmitt

      I was also concerned about this as well since I run a business from home and receive packages globally, especially from China.
      From what I read, the virus can’t live that long on a surface, and due to most packages taking 1-3 weeks to arrive from China, it’s highly likely that you’re perfectly safe.
      But… as a precaution, Here is what I’m doing. I now have a container of Clorox wipes by the front door. I’m wiping down Every package that is a plastic poly-mailer type envelope. Depending on the contents, I wipe most things down inside as well. Obviously you can’t with clothing, but I truly believe the long time it takes to arrive is a blessing for a change 😉

    • Mandy

      5 days of persistence on a range of common nonbiocidal surface materials, including polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon; PTFE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ceramic tiles, glass, silicone rubber, and stainless steel. We have shown previously that noroviruses are destroyed on copper alloy surfaces.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4659470/

    • Joe

      virus’ usually can only survive outside of the body on surfaces for a couple hours or so (give or take). Unless you touch a surface that a sick person coughed or sneezed on right after they did there more than likely won’t be a problem at all.

      Think of it like the flu or cold or etc. Its the same type of virus just an unknown strain that has appeared. It acts the same in the end just due to unknown one we really dont know much about it at this point and can only do what can to help. Healthy people will usually not have much of a problem from these types of virus’ its usually the previously sick or old or young that will have the hardest problem as their immune systems arent as good.

  38. Karl

    Will someone publish the 25OHD levels of those infected?

  39. Deepna

    This report was so helpful. But may I know whether there’s any cure for this virus?. Since this virus is spreading so quickly, even before the symptoms are visible there’s possibility of catching this virus. Also yesterday our country confirmed the 1st case of coronavirus infected person.

    • Henry Smith

      There is no cure for Coronavirus as of now. As the blogger has mentioned, scientists all over the world are researching on this virus. Hence, the cure is only supportive in nature. Prevention is the key here. If anyone has developed any symptom mentioned above, it is recommended to visit nearby ERs or Urgent Care Centers or any clinic at the earliest.

  40. Mustafa Lanewala

    Thank you for this information , I have an question that, is virus sprayed through milk and milk products?

  41. Shiela

    A specific question – If there is about a 3% death at this point, which is lower than the flu (a different virus) this season, why then, is China taking such drastic measures? Is it a fear that it could mutate and become more lethal?

    • Chris

      I don’t know where you got your “Common flu” death percentages, but it’s no where close to 3%…. can you point me to where you received this information?

    • Dahlia Greene

      Well, mainly because we know almost nothing about this new, and lethal (for some) coronavirus strand and because it is so easily transmittable. Along with that, we don’t have a vaccine or medicine to prevent/treat/cure the coronavirus. China has about 2,000+ people a day getting infected. The infection has BLOWN past the number of people infected with SARS in the early 2000s.

    • Mr Nice Guy

      yes, it could mutate further, it’s new and too early to know things for sure, it spreads fast, and even the 3% number is not certain because it’s too early on, it can be much more than 3%

  42. Betty

    I know this may sound super dumb, but I just received a t-shirt that came from China. Not sure exactly what part but it was made and then shipped from china. It took 3 weeks to get to me, so my question is am I at risk for getting coronavirus?

  43. Dr Neil Sharma

    Can the influenza vaccine provide some immunity against coronavairus , decreasing the chances of getting infected ornif infected decrease the severity

    • Leigh

      No there is no vaccine for corona virus yet as it is a novel virus, we only have vaccines for the more common influenzas that surface each year predominantly during flu season and they will not work for the corona virus as these viruses have different antigens on their surfaces. The corona virus may also possibly mutate its antigens so potentially people could potentially even catch it more than once as your body wouldn’t recognise the changed antigens. The corona virus is basically just the flu and the symptoms are not that different to rhinovirus etc (again unless it mutates potentially causing more harm) but so far it’s been shown to have a slow mutation rate. People are just worried because it’s a new virus so not understood. It is not that different from the common flu and you should only be worried really if you are elderly or really young or have a compromised immune system. The majority of people who’ve developed the pneumonia and secondary problems and died have been in this group.

  44. Alijah

    How do I know if I just have a regular cough or one of the symptoms of the virus?

    • Victoria

      The cough reported with Corona is a dry, nonproductive cough—meaning there’s no mucous being produced. Colds will have a productive cough, flu could have either.

      Basically if you have a dry cough accompanied by a fever and/or difficulty breathing (not caused by mucous/sinus blockage), be safe rather than sorry and get it checked out.

    • Dante

      Well obviously it would be difficult to differentiate between the two, but, since China has shared the genome of the pathogen(virus), various diagnostic methods must have been developed thereof. It is therefore preferred to go for screening in case of flu or cold like symptoms, so as to rule out every possibility.

  45. Bobbi Jones

    Thank you, very informative and less hysterical than the media. I have a son who lives in Beijing, and I feel better about it now.

  46. Tiffany Davison

    How long does the virus survive on inanimate objects? What I’m concerned about is we order products from China. Buying clothes online and then not realizing it’s from China until it gets here. I truly do feel bad for all the people that are infected with it, but it seems that the flu is in our own backyard, and we should be just as concerned with that. I guess having two different deadly viruses doesn’t help though.

    • Lucasluke

      Does the ambient temperature affect the infectivity of the virus? Is there a difference in transmission in different regions (such as Northeast and Hainan)? Will the infectivity of the virus decrease as the temperature rises?

      It can survive in different body fluids and even the surface of the object at room temperature for 2-10 days. Temperature mainly affects the survival time of the virus and does not affect its infectious capacity.

      Because coronaviruses can be transmitted through respiratory aerosols, inactivating the virus in various ways and adopting multifaceted protective measures can minimize the possibility of infection.

  47. Fannie

    Thanks for the article.
    I want to ask the same question as above.

    How long does the coronavirus stay “active” in the air? i.e Will going out to get groceries at a crowded supermarket be a cause for concern (we can’t avoid people who are sick when we go out)?

    Should people traveling be concerned about the air circulation in the aircraft cabin (assuming someone infected sneezes/coughs in the next aisle etc.)? How can one protect themselves or their child in those situations?

    Thanks

    • LOUIS DESY

      Hi,

      According to the papers and other sources, it looks like the virus ‘range’ in the air is less than the flu. the flu seems to spread out from a person about 5 or 6 feet, where as CoronaVirus only seems to go out about 2 or 3 feet on particles from an infected person.

      I also posted a link to virus surviving on surfaces earlier today, but anything coming in from China should be fine.

      Another person asked about ambient temp effecting the virus, and it does; in general the warmer it is, the less the virus survives. (see prior positing on the paper.)

    • Kent

      If a healthy young adult contracts the Coronavirus, when should be healthy again ?

  48. Rafed Khashan

    The United Nations should issue some sort of regulations regarding the proper consumption of food. The consumption of exotic foods, especially foods involving animals, in China and other nations should be banned or regulated in such a way that prevents the spread of diseases. What happens in China or any other country does not stay there and becomes a major international crisis.

    • Mel

      I have a package arriving to me in 3 days from china and it’s one of the places that was told not to visit due to the virus and im kinda scare to even touch the package when it comes. Since the package is probably touch and grab ready to be shipped.

  49. Steve

    Thank you for the informative post. When you reference very young what ages does that cover? We have four year old twins and are planing to fly down to Disney World from Boston for six days starting this Friday. Is going on the plane with 4 year olds increasing our risks? same goes for visiting Disney World during this time period? If it was your family would you consider postponing the trip?

    • Vanessa L Jones

      I watched Dr. Mike’s video on YT about this and he put my mind at a bit more of an ease. Don’t panic, but stay alert! If you feel like going out in such a populated place is a risk; I do advise postponing the trip, just to be safe! But out of the confirmed cases, there is only 2 so far to my knowledge! The chances are very low, and people who are turning up with viruses are people who have other come in contact with someone who went to China, and came back, or people that went themselves! So again, do not panic! Do what you feel is best! But please; be safe and alert, and practice spectacular hygiene! 😀

  50. Adrian

    Do we know how many people have actually recovered from the virus, versus how many passed away?

    • MikeW

      Apparently current run is as follows: 2927 cases, 82 deaths & only 61 classed as recovered. I assume that means 2884 are still infected but no stats on how Long takes to recover / what condition those 2884 are in?

    • Asem Aryn

      Yes, you can have a look at John Hopkins University online board for tracking coronavirus spread, as of 01/29, 132 deaths and 110 recovered

  51. Justin S

    Very informative, thanks for taking the time to write this! It highlights the reality of the situation, without downplaying things. I can always trust Harvard Health to give pragmatic info, as most other organizations are currently downplaying things to keep panic low, and I get it but people also need some real practical advice for the situation as it is now, as well as in case things get a bit worse.

    One question that I can’t find a straight answer anywhere is, how severe is 2019-nCov to a normal healthy adult and child (especially compared to the regular flu)?

    At some point, it may spread to people who have not visited Wuhan or China at all. I want to ask some questions on prevention in that context.

    How long does the coronavirus stay “active” in the air? i.e Will going out to get groceries at a crowded supermarket be a cause for concern (we can’t avoid people who are sick when we go out)?

    Should people traveling be concerned about the air circulation in the aircraft cabin (assuming someone infected sneezes/coughs in the next aisle etc.)? How can one protect themselves or their child in those situations?

    Should N95 masks be worn then (along with practicing basic infectious disease principles)?

    I hope you can help answer these, best you can!
    Thanks!

    • Muhhamed

      downplaying?, i feel this was more comforting than anything i have read thus far.

      • Justin S

        To clarify, I think the article did NOT downplay things. I am in agreement with you Muhhamed, and I too was comforted by this article. I am hoping Harvard can answer some more questions to help us everyday citizens know more! Stay healthy and safe everyone!

  52. Julie

    When you write “ There are some early reports of non-respiratory symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea” does that mean that these symptoms would be present in addition to the respiratory symptoms? Or is it possible that someone who doesn’t have any respiratory symptoms but only severe diarrhea and stomach pain could have the virus?

    • Jay

      From your comment it sounds like you may just be having some gastrointestinal issues
      Don’t worry, unless you’re in contact with someone who has been in Wuhan, China lately I’m sure your food poisoning wont last that long.

      • Julie

        Yes, I was in Wuhan, thats why I ask. Started having awful stomach problems two weeks after returning, which lasted for a week. Still have not had any respiratory issues, now three weeks since returning. So it seems like no problem, however it seems like there is a lot of conflicting information on this virus and what kind of symptoms do or do not show. In any case, nobody will screen for the virus if there are no respiratory symptoms, so it is pointless to ask.

      • PARTHIBAN MARIMUTHU

        Don’t worry start taking larger amounts of antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables daily thrice a day alongwith meals to boost up your immune defence system. Also enhance deep breathing 5 minutes twice a day to maintain healthy air pipe which is the target point of infections of Corona like viruses.

  53. Ben

    Good article.

    Any thoughts on whether receiving the seasonal flu vaccine would help lessen the severity of illness in patients who contract the latest coronavirus or are the viruses too different? Have any studies evaluated the effect of receiving the regular flu shot in those that were exposed to MERS or SARS etc?

    • Malcolm H

      Ben it’s unlikely that vaccination against influenza virus would boost immunity against Corona virus because they are too different and immune responses of this type are very specific. A good point has been made that the flu vaccine should give you much better immunity against most similar strains of flu and you are much more likely to get flu (and die from it) than from this Corona virus. It would also make it easier to diagnose new Corona outbreaks without as many flu victims.

      • Dennis Thireault, PMP, MS

        Corona Virus belongs to the same virus families as SARS and MERS (and I suspect some others out their as well). This one is bad as it has gone airborne now (which in the virus world is the worst possible situation). Mask protection like an N-95 is not much help; maybe a half face respirator may be helpful…..

        Folks those people are wearing fully contained Self Breathing Apparatus and with full PPE gear that are normally for a BSL-3 and above lab working with viruses and bacteria. As somebody trained to work with BSL-3 and above your do not wear that kind of gear without a very good reason which tells me it far worse than China is letting on. You do not quarantine a city larger than London England if it was not bad.

        The good thing it appears to at this point with the information we have not last long in the airborne stage at certain temps; the bad thing is how accurate is the information? I want to point out this a wild mutated strain so as of this point anything and everything we know is guesswork (in other words we have not a clue). Yes it is a coronavirus (but remember this is a totally unknown coronavirus so everything is thrown out the window). It appears to have an incubation stage of 1-14 days before the first symptoms show up (which is a pretty long time on the viral time frame). No the flu vaccine will not stop it totally different families; the major point is this has gone airborne at this point so your any normal means of cutting it down are a mute point now…..

  54. Anthony

    THANKS !!! I was so worried

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