Disaster Preparedness: Coronavirus (COVID-19)



What is a Coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a type of virus that can cause a range of respiratory issues, including coughing and sneezing to more serious emergencies like trouble breathing. Symptoms can be from from mild to severe and even fatal in some cases.


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What is the Coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19)?

There are other coronavirus types that can spread from person to person including 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 coronaviruses. These are common human coronavirus types that can be found across many different countries.

The Coronavirus-2019 is the newest strain of coronavirus that is spreading throughout the world. The Coronavirus-2019 (also known as SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19) is a novel coronavirus. This means that it is a new strain that has not previously been found in humans and has transferred from animals to humans.

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What Makes COVID-19 Different?

What makes COVID-19 and other novel coronaviruses different is that these coronaviruses have changed from being able to infect animals (like birds and bats) to being able to pass on to humans. There are some famous cases of these animal-to-human coronaviruses that you may recall from previous years. In 2003, there was the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus. In 2012, there was the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) coronavirus.

The animal source of COVID-19 has not been conclusively proven yet. It is thought that the outbreak started in the wildlife and seafood market in Wuhan Province, China. Some scientists think it might have evolved from pangolins or bats (Cyranoski, 2020), although we still aren’t entirely sure. More studies need to be conducted to determine the source of the outbreak.

As of March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.


How Contagious is COVID-19?

Although COVID-19 is similar to influenza (the flu), it is not as contagious as the flu according to the World Health Organization: “COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, from the data we have so far” (World Health Organization). While that is good news, part of the problem is that COVID-19 is three times as fatal as the flu as of March 2020.

The incubation period of COVID-19 is thought to be anywhere from 2-14 days which is why those in quarantined are typically segregated for two weeks. Thus far, it is thought that the virus spreads through sneezing, coughing, and passing infected bodily fluids onto other people.

In case of an emergency quarantine, make sure you have a home safety kit. Click here to see our Coronavirus-2019 Home Safety Kit Checklist information.


What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

In most cases, the symptoms of Coronavirus-2019 are mild to moderate. Click here to see how COVID-19 compares to allergies, the flu, and colds. In many ways, they’re similar to those of the flu and can include:

  • cough
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • fever
  • general aches and pains
  • diarrhea
  • gastro-intestinal issues

In some rare cases, the symptoms are much more dangerous and can cause:

  • kidney failure
  • pneumonia
  • severe respiratory issues
  • death


Where Can I Get Tested for COVID-19?

If you have concerns that you may have Coronavirus-2019, contact your state Department of Health for further instructions. Most testing is currently being done via nasal swabs which are then sent to a laboratory for results. You should also call your doctor and ask what the next steps are.

It’s important that you don’t go out to the emergency room or urgent care because if you are infected with COVID-19, you’re putting everyone else on your way at risk. Call your healthcare providers before you leave the house for further instructions.


How Dangerous is COVID-19?

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that the mortality rate for COVID-19 is at 3.4 percent (World Health Organization). As a comparison, the flu typically has a mortality rate around 1 percent.

However, there are certain areas in the world that may have lower or higher mortality rates. For example, Wuhan Province in China has a mortality rate around 4.9 percent while the Hubei Province has a 3.1 percent mortality rate.

As of March 2023, there have been over 6.5 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide. For comparison, the 2003 SARS outbreak killed just under 800 people worldwide. Many of the fatalities associated with COVID-19 have been from people who are elderly, have other diseases, or are otherwise compromised by other health issues.

Click here to learn how to avoid getting the coronavirus.