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Quick Guide to Coronavirus – The Essential Information

By jeremy

What are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses.  Coronavirus is not a single strain of virus but rather a classified group of viruses with similar characteristics (family Coronaviridae).

The SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus was a coronavirus.  The Middle East respiratory syndrome virus was also a coronavirus. More specifically both were betacoronaviruses like the current coronavirus outbreak.

What is the current coronavirus outbreak called?

At the time of this writing, the current coronavirus outbreak is being referred to as the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  2019-nCoV is a betacoronavirus.

Where did the outbreak begin?

The current outbreak began in Wuhan, China with most cases originating from a local fish market.  2019-nCoV is now being found in many international locations including Canada.

How many confirmed cases are there in Canada?

As of Jan 29, 2020 there are only 2 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in Canada.   Both are in Toronto. 19 other cases are under investigation in Ontario.

How is infection with 2019-nCoV confirmed?

An infection with 2019-nCoV is laboratory-confirmed with Real-Time RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) as well as next generation sequencing.

What are the symptoms?

Early reports from the outbreak in China state that:

  • Common symptoms early in the infection are fever, cough, and muscle aches and pains or fatigue.
  • Less common symptoms are production of sputum or phlegm, headache, coughing up blood, and diarrhea.
  • Shortness of breath happens in just over half of cases.
  • About ⅔ of patients will experience lymphocytopenia (low level of blood cells called lymphocytes).
  • All patients developed pneumonia with abnormal findings on chest Computed tomography (CT) scan.
  • More serious complications found as the infections progress include acute respiratory distress syndrome, acute cardiac injury and secondary infections.

Who is most affected by 2019-nCoV?

According to the Lancet journal article, listed in the Resources, the virus mainly affected men (73% of the cases followed) and the median age was 49 years old.  This is a small sample size (41 laboratory confirmed cases) and these demographic characteristics of the infection may change.

How many cases of 2019-nCoV infections have there been?

According to an article from, “As of Jan. 29, there have been 6,078 total cases globally of the novel Wuhan coronavirus, 132 deaths and 110 people who have recovered.”

How is the coronavirus spread / transmitted?

The coronavirus is spread from human to human through the air via coughing and sneezing, through close contact such as shaking hands or touching and/or by touching something with the virus on it and then transferring it to your eyes, mouth or nose before you wash your hands.  Less commonly the virus can spread via fecal contamination.

It is most likely that the 2019-nCoV is spread mostly through the air via coughing and sneezing just like the SARS and MERS viruses.

What is the best way to prevent an infection?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

“The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses.”


What do I do if I am feeling sick?

If you are feeling sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, stay home.  You should only leave home to seek medical attention.

Isolate yourself away from other people and pets in your home as best as possible.  Do not share household items.

Wear a face mask when around other people or pets.

Wash your hands regularly.