As an MD I get a lot of questions about 2019-nCoV, so here the 5 most common questions with answers.
#1: Should I freak out about Corona? How bad will it get?
No, you shouldn’t freak out, and yet we don’t really know so far.
Last week, some experts were predicting the peak of Corona cases to occur this week….but more and more cases are occurring. This is not a great sign, but currently, there really are very few cases outside of China so the threat is small. (See #2)
#2: Will Coronavirus spread around the world?
Hopefully not, and it hasn’t yet. China is badly hit but outside of that, the virus is well contained. This is an evolving situation that is assessed daily, and if you want to be on the cutting edge of awareness the WHO has daily briefings that you can access here:
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation reports
Situation reports - Situation reports provide the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak. These include…
#3: What kind of mask do I need?
There is a ton of misinformation about this. The CDC does not recommend facemasks, and yet the general public wants them anyway. (can you blame people?)
The surgical masks that you commonly see in online coverage, and in this post, and at CVS, are affordable and easy to find but are not proven to be effective. They do a great job of reducing droplet transmission from source patients, but they do not block particulates (Coronavirus itself) so they are unproven.
Hospitals are stocking up on n95 masks, as these are dense enough to filter virus particles. Unfortunately, they are more expensive, uncomfortable, and claustrophobia-inducing to wear, and thus difficult to deploy widely. Currently, I wouldn’t bother wearing a mask in public, but when working in the ER I do use an n95. (And full disclosure, I have a box of these stockpiled just in case)
#4: If masks are not helpful or practical, what can I do?
This is easy. First, avoid sick people and international travel if you can.
Second, wash your hands! No one respects handwashing as much as they should! Consider how many times per day you subconsciously touch your face/eyes/nose/mouth/food… Direct contact is the easiest way for virus particles to enter your system. Washing your hands frequently reduces this risk.
#5: Which is worse: Coronavirus or the Flu?
I really like this question because it implies that the person asking it has some insightful perspective. Corona in 2020 is new, gets a lot of social and news coverage, and sells a lot of face masks — while Flu was so 1918.
And yet, for the US, influenza is much much much worse. As of today, there are only 12 confirmed domestic Coronavirus cases resulting in zero deaths. Meanwhile, this year the flu has already caused 15 million cases and over 8,000 American deaths. #FluIsMuchWorse
Don’t freak out, but do wash your hands. Check out the WHO and CDC websites for evolving information. And if you’re going to buy yourself face masks, shop around for n95s.