Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Below are some of our most frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak.

Both the CDC and the Canadian public health information pages are helpful if you want to stay updated and learn more.

What’s a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory infections like SARS.

Currently, the term is being used popularly to describe the 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, originating in Wuhan, China.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted from animals to humans. There are many coronaviruses that circulate in animal populations that are not infective to humans, but occasionally they make the jump. For example, it was found that SARS coronaviruses came from civet cats to humans. 

The source of this current outbreak is still not clear.

What are the symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Cough 
  • Difficulty breathing

How does it spread?

The virus causes infections of the nose, throat, and lungs, which means it can be spread:

  • through the air by coughing and sneezing
  • by close personal contact like touching or shaking hands
  • by touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

What’s the risk?

Although there are reported cases of death due to this virus, the incidence rate here in Canada is low (four cases) and there have been no deaths here. The risk is low in the general population, and generally higher in people who are immunocompromised.

There have been three confirmed cases in Ontario. All cases were in people who had traveled to the affected area in China  

What should I do?

The risk is low for the general population. There’s no vaccine, but also little risk at the moment to Canadians. However, you should avoid:

  • all non-essential travel to China
  • all travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan city

You can also reduce your risk to yourself and others by making sure you:

  • stay home and avoid visiting people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick
  • cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing to reduce the spread of germs
  • dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible and wash your hands after
  • wash your hands often with soap and water
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands

Again, there’s currently no vaccine, but the risk is low for Canadians. Your best approach is the take care of your immune system. We’ve written about it before–learn more here!