The New Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered

The new coronavirus is changing how Americans go to work, what they do in their leisure time and schooling at every level.

The situation surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is ever evolving, and so is misinformation.

Here are some essential resources and things you need to know:

When do symptoms appear, what are they and what should I do if I have them? The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure and may include fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you’re sick, call your doctor ahead of time; don’t just show up at the clinic or emergency room and risk spreading the coronavirus. Except for medical care, self-isolate (more about what that means below) and restrict activities outside your home during the illness.

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How many people in the United States are sick? Johns Hopkins University’s Centers for Systems Science created an interactive coronavirus case tracker that gives a real-time glimpse of the coronavirus outbreak worldwide.

What does preparing ahead of time look like? Buy enough groceries to last a couple of weeks. Pre-fill prescription medications. Prepare as you would for a nasty bout with the flu or bronchitis: tissues; an acetaminophen such as Tylenol and an ibuprofen such as Advil for fever and pain relief; Mucinex or some other expectorant that will reduce chest congestion; and whatever cough medicine you typically use. Some health care providers are recommending a home humidifier, and if you don’t have one, that would be a good item to pick up. Also, stock up on groceries to last a couple of weeks.

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How can I find out what’s happening in my state and county? If you can’t find the information on Patch, state and county health departments are a good place to start. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bases its coronavirus surveillance reports on that information from the states.

Who is most at risk of getting sick? The CDC says Americans 60 and older are most at risk for the coronavirus illness, and it encourages them to prepare for extended stays in their homes and to avoid going out into large crowds. The older the person and the more extensive their pre-existing health conditions, the greater the risk.

Does that mean children aren’t at risk? No. The CDC says children are less likely to get COVID-19, as the illness caused by the coronavirus is called. If they do, their symptoms generally will be milder, but they can spread the virus. The CDC recommends frequent hand-washing and other good hygiene habits.

Does wearing a surgical mask offer any protection? Loose-fitting surgical masks don’t fully protect people from inhaling smaller airborne particles. The CDC recommends that only people who are actively experiencing symptoms or are being monitored for the virus should wear them.

How should people protect themselves? Frequent, vigorous hand-washing with hot, soapy water — taking care to scrub between fingers, under fingernails and around cuticles — is the first step. But also practice “social distancing,” which is explained by the CDC as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”

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Are there natural cures? If there are, they haven’t been identified, but several stories about the curative powers of garlic, chlorine dioxide or related products with names such as Miracle Mineral Solution have been debunked. Garlic does have antimicrobial properties, but the World Health Organization says there’s no evidence that eating garlic will help with the virus. The Food and Drug Administration says it doesn’t recommend ingesting drinks with chlorine dioxide because they may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and symptoms of severe dehydration.

What does it mean that the World Health Organization called the outbreak a “pandemic”? The declaration refers to the scope of the new coronavirus — not its severity — and means it has become a “worldwide spread of a new disease”?