Basic questions about the new coronavirus answered

As of  Tuesday morning, testing has turned up 11 cases of infection with of the virus known as COVID-19 in Illinois, and Wisconsin officials say they’re prepared, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that key symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Those symptoms can appear from 2 to 14 days after you’re exposed to it.

The spread of the new coronavirus continues to dominate media attention and concern people who just want some basic answers to questions about what they should do or how worried they should be.

Dr. Robert Citronberg, director of infectious diseases at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, recently took to social media to answer some of those basic questions.

What are the differences between all the current coronaviruses?

Dr. Citronberg: Coronaviruses are actually a large family of viruses. Most of them cause mild disease like common colds. Some of them cause more severe disease, like SARS and MERS and now COVID-19.

How is coronavirus diagnosed?

Dr. Citronberg: Coronavirus is diagnosed by a test. It’s a swab of the nose and the mouth. Up until recently, it was very difficult to get done. But now, many private labs are developing a test, so it should be much easier to get tested.

What is the best way to prevent contracting it?

Dr. Citronberg: The best way to prevent yourself from contracting coronavirus is to avoid people who seem to be coughing and sneezing. Also, remember that the virus can live on surfaces at least for a few hours. So make sure that you’re cleaning your hands.

How much longer will this virus stay?

Dr. Citronberg: It’s anticipated that the virus will stay around maybe for a few years and become a seasonal virus. However, hopefully by next season, we’ll have a vaccine and drug therapy that will help reduce its spread.

Are babies at increased risk?

Dr. Citronberg: Interestingly, this virus seems to spare children. Nonetheless, you should still take precautions like making sure surfaces are wiped down and that you keep your baby’s hands clean.

If you have symptoms or think you’ve been exposed, call a doctor.

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