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What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a class of virus that affects the respiratory system.
The coronavirus class contains about 7 different strains that can infect humans. The strain affecting us today is a newly identified 7th strain, officially known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), or COVID-19. At the end of 2019, this emerging strain was identified as the cause of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei Province of China. It spread rapidly, resulting in an epidemic throughout China, with sporadic cases reported globally.

In February 2020, the World Health Organization named the disease COVID-19, an acronym meaning Coronavirus Disease 2019. The coronavirus is now recognized as the cause of the 2003 SARS outbreak. Additional specimens are being tested to learn more about this coronavirus, and its link with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

How does SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 present clinically?

Frequently reported signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever (83–98%), cough (46%–82%), fatigue, or muscle weakness (11–44%), and shortness of breath (31%). Sore throat has also been reported in some patients at the onset of the virus.

If any of these symptoms arise in you or a loved one, it is crucial to get tested and diagnosed as soon as possible.

How is SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 Tested?

A nasal swab is conducted by a health professional and sent to a laboratory.

Where to get tested for SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19?

Primary Care Physician (PCP), Urgent Care Center or Hospital are able to conduct nasal swabs. Due to the short supply of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), or COVID-19, testing from the CDC and urgent care centers are reserved for those that are clinically presenting symptoms.

Considering that flu season is still active, A Respiratory Pathogen Panel (RPP) can help rule out the flu and non-lethal strain of coronavirus. Choose the "Cold Flu Panel" test on LabFinder to rule these diseases out prior to obtaining a COVID-19 test to prevent delays.

How is SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 transmitted?

Unfortunately, given the rapid outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the risk factors associated with the virus are not yet fully understood. However, person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets, in a manner resembling the spread of influenza. Contaminated surfaces can also contribute to its spread.

Can SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19 be diagnosed?

Yes, at present, the possibility of COVID-19 should be considered primarily in patients with fever or lower respiratory tract symptoms who:

  • Reside in or have recently (within the prior 14 days) traveled to areas where community transmission has been largely reported (eg, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan).
  • Have had recent (within the prior 14 days) close contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. Clinicians should also be aware of the possibility of COVID-19 in travelers from or residents in other locations outside of China where community transmission has been reported.

The possibility of COVID-19 should also be considered in patients with severe lower respiratory tract illness when an alternative cause cannot be identified, even if there has been no clear exposure to the virus.

How can I protect myself?
  • Use disinfecting wipes (greater than 60% alcohol content) to properly wipe down commonly touched surfaces (ie. doorknobs, handles, light switches, keyboards, mouse’s, and portable electronic devices).
  • Breathing exercises to expand lung capacity and strengthen the diaphragm.
  • Avoiding contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your face (ie. eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • Covering your mouth upon coughing and sneezing. If flu-like symptoms arise, make sure to schedule a coronavirus testing appointment as soon as possible.

Clean Wash your hands regularly Use alchohol-based sanitizers.
Cover Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Contain Don’t share drinks or utensils. Use your own pen/pencil.
By: Andy Alem Medically reviewed by: Dr. Robert Segal, M.D.