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What You Need To Know About Coronavirus In California

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Updated Feb. 28, 4:52 p.m.

With the continued spread of COVID-19 in California there are a lot of questions about how the disease caused by the coronavirus works and what people should do. Here are some answers from experts and public health officials about what the public should know.

How worried do I need to be?

Those who are likely to be exposed include health workers caring for patients with COVID-19, and other people in close contact with people returning from affected areas.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to the general public in the U.S. is low. Most residents are unlikely to be exposed to the virus at this time.The California Department of Public Health also describes the risk to the general public as low. 

COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, but a low mortality rate. Approximately 80 percent of people who test positive for this illness do not get sick enough to require hospitalization, the department said.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of infection with the coronavirus are very similar to the symptoms of the flu. They include fever, a cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC

Symptoms may appear in as little as two days and as long as 14 days after exposure. The vast majority of people who are infected with the coronavirus will experience mild symptoms or may even be asymptomatic, UC Davis pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Dean Blumberg said.

How does it spread? What can I do to help limit the spread?

According to the CDC, the virus that causes the illness mainly spreads person to person, such as:

  • When two people are in close contact with one another
  • When one person inhales the respiratory droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • When one person touches a surface where the virus lives and then touches their nose or mouth

Experts believe people are the most contagious at the peak of their symptoms, though some spread might be possible before symptoms arise.
To help limit spread, wash your hands frequently. Health officials also say to: 

  • Resist touching your own nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you develop a fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms

Who is most vulnerable to becoming severely ill if infected with the coronavirus?
Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are more at risk of coronavirus infection and of developing severe symptoms from an infection. Kids, so far, seem less vulnerable to coronavirus infection and have even milder symptoms than most adults, according to NPR.

Can COVID-19 be spread through packages sent via mail from China?

There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through imported goods, and there have not been any cases of it associated with imported goods in the U.S.

The CDC says that there is likely a very low risk of spread through products and packaging shipped over days and weeks at ambient temperatures from China. Two past coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, had very poor survivability on surfaces (like packages and products). 

What does community transmission mean? 

Community transmission refers to situations where the source of infection is unknown, or cannot be pinpointed. 

Up until now, the source of the infection in all of the cases in the United States could be traced back to someone who had recently traveled to China, where the outbreak began. 

A recently announced patient currently undergoing treatment at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento may be the first case of community transmission in the U.S., but the CDC says it’s still possible that the patient may have been exposed to a return traveler who was infected. A second case was announced Friday in Santa Clara County.  

What should I do if I think I’m experiencing symptoms of COVID-19? Should I go to the doctor, the hospital, or wait it out?

Sacramento County Public Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson recommended that people avoid hospitals, emergency rooms or doctors’ offices unless they really need to go, in order to lessen exposure to the virus and other illnesses like the cold and flu.

“If someone feels ill, the best thing to do is contact your physician, and he or she will take a travel history of you and a more broad symptomatic history of you,” Bielenson said. “I surmise that over time, the vast majority of people with this infection will be treated at home, just as with the flu.”

The California Department of Public Health recommends that people who have recently traveled to China and who have become ill with a fever, cough or shortness of breath call their doctors or local health department and report their travel history. 

Also take some precautionary measures like avoiding contact with sick individuals, washing your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, and getting a flu shot. Since COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu, it is another important reason to get a flu shot. 

Should I cancel my upcoming travel plans?

The CDC currently recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to China and South Korea, including layovers in these locations. It also recommends that older adults and those with chronic medical conditions talk to their healthcare provider and think about postponing trips to Japan, Italy and Iran because COVID-19 can be more serious for those groups.

NPR is updating a map on CDC travel advisories here.

You can find more travel information from the CDC here. Above all, travel brings you into contact with lots of people, especially on cruises or airplanes, so frequent hand washing is recommended.

How many people in the United States and in California have tested positive for the virus?

The number of cases in the United States and California is changing rapidly. The CDC is updating U.S. cases here. The California Department of Public Health is updating state cases here.

As of February 28, According to the CDC’s website, in the U.S. overall, 459 people have been tested and 15 people are confirmed cases, not including people who returned to the U.S. Of those 15, 12 are travel-related, and three are person-to-person.

Among persons repatriated to the United States, three confirmed cases were from people traveling from Wuhan, China, and 44 confirmed cases were people from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship.

In California, there are 34 people who have tested positive. Five of those individuals have moved out of state, so now there are 29 people in California who have tested positive, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom and updated to include a case in Santa Clara County

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