Physicians assistant Orlinda Martinez is part of the American Family Care network of health providers working to dispel coronavirus myths.
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One myth that's circulating claims that goods shipped from China could put people at risk of catching the coronavirus.
"No, that's not a way it's being spread," said Martinez."It's spread through live particles that are in the air. They're coughed, they're sneezed, or they're expelled in the air."
Then there's the myth that air inside bubble packs that cushion goods shipped from China could contain the coronavirus.
"That is not true. Unfortunately, there's a lot of things going around on the internet that are not correct," Martinez said.
American Family Care shared the fast facts below, as part of their effort to clear up what they call "coronavirus confusion."
1. WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS?
It's an outbreak of respiratory illnesses caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. It's resulted in thousands of confirmed cases in China, including cases outside of Wuhan. Other cases have been identified in a growing number of international locations, including the United States.
2. CAN I CATCH CORONAVIRUS?
You are most likely safe and have a very low chance of contracting the virus unless you've been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus--which right now, typically means a traveler from Wuhan, China--the city where it originated.
3. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms can be cold or flu-like including a cough, possibly with a fever and shortness of breath. Some will experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Most can recover within a few days, but some with weakened immune systems- such as the young or elderly- may develop a serious infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia. And it can be deadly.
4. IS THIS A SERIOUS AMERICAN HEALTH THREAT?
Currently, the flu is a bigger health threat in the U.S. than coronavirus.
The flu kills roughly 35,000 Americans every year- more than any other virus. This season, it's already sickened an estimated 15 million Americans and killed more than 8,000. (CDC) Yet fewer than half of adults get a flu shot.
5. HOW IS CORONAVIRUS SPREAD?
Health officials believe it's spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing that can affect people up to six feet away. By contrast, measles or chickenpox spread through smaller droplets over much greater distances.
6. HOW DO WE STOP THE VIRUS FROM SPREADING?
Take the same steps you would take to prevent any virus:
- Wash hands regularly
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow
- Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth
- Stay away from people who have a runny nose or are coughing or sneezing.
7. SHOULD I TRAVEL TO CHINA?
Health officials recommend Americans avoid all non-essential travel to China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued its highest travel warning--a level 3.
8. DO FACE MASKS WORK TO STOP THE VIRUS?
Face masks can't hurt, but most people don't wear them consistently or tight enough to fully cover the nose and mouth, so droplets can still spread. If worn properly, masks can prevent the spread of droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and they do prevent you from touching your face. However, officials with the CDC are not recommending face masks because right now coronavirus is not an immediate threat to anyone who hasn't come in contact with someone with the virus.
"General knowledge of how we can prevent illness being spread, I think that's real important," said Martinez. "And don't panic, and don't believe everything you read online."