What should we know about Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

It’s been all over in the news from many different sources, but there are still plenty of unanswered questions. What are the real risks of this virus? What do I need to do to keep healthy? Do I need to be concerned in small-town Minnesota?

The short version is, in central Minnesota, you are more likely to catch influenza than Coronavirus.

There is a vaccine for influenza, and it is not too late to get your flu shot.

Coronavirus History

Coronavirus is a novel, or new, virus that spread from a wild animal to people in China. The virus is believed to have first infected people at an open market in China where live and dead wild animals are purchased for food.

The transmission of Coronavirus to people started in December 2019. Symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and leads to pneumonia.

It was officially named COVID-19 in mid-February.

Coronavirus spreads very quickly by droplets, similar to influenza. When a person talks, coughs, or sneezes, droplets carrying the virus are released and land on anything within about 6 feet of the infected person. If you are close enough, the virus can get on your face, nose, eyes, or mouth and enter your body that way. You could also touch a surface where the virus landed, pick up the virus on your hands, and then touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth, and allow the virus to enter your body.

Once a person is infected by Coronavirus, it takes 2-14 days for the virus to become strong enough to make them feel sick. However, the infected person can pass Coronavirus to others before they start feeling sick.

Severity of illness due to Coronavirus varies: some people have mild cases and do not need much treatment; some are hospitalized and fighting for their lives, and others lose that fight and die from Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Prevention

There is currently no vaccine to prevent Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

Coronavirus compared to Influenza

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • Droplet
  • Person-to-person
  • Possibly touching a surface with the virus on it
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • 12 confirmed cases
  • 2 from person-to-person contact in the USA

This information changes frequently, and was current as of the afternoon of 2/5/2020

  • Washington state
  • California
  • Arizona
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Wisconsin

This list has been changing frequently, and was current as of the afternoon of 2/5/2020

  • 0 in USA
  • 492 in China
  • 2 in Hong Kong
  • 1 in Philippines

This information changes frequently, and was current as of the afternoon of 2/5/2020

There is no vaccine currently available for Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

None yet, other than controlling symptoms

2 or more days before they feel sick

  • Yes

  • Call first and tell them
    • Your symptoms
    • Travel history or if you’ve had close contact with someone from China
  • Make sure your nose and mouth are covered before getting close to anyone
  • Wash your hands


  • Droplet
  • Person-to-person
  • Touching a surface with the virus on it
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • 19 million cases as of 1/25/20
  • 180,000 hospitalized

Updated statistics from the CDC can be found here.

Influenza is currently widespread throughout all 50 states in the USA

  • 10,000 in USA as of 1/25/2020

The USA influenza season has not peaked as of 2/5/2020

An influenza vaccine exists and is available

  • Reduces chance of getting infected
    • The vaccine lessens severity of symptoms if infected
  • Takes 14 days to be protected by the influenza vaccine

Antiviral medication helps shorten the duration of influenza if taken within the first 24-48 hours of illness.

  • Yes

  • Keep your nose and mouth covered before getting close to anyone
  • Wash your hands before touching anything

Preventing the spread of respiratory viruses

The CDC always recommends using the following methods to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often, using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds
    • Wash with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty
    • Especially after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • Before eating
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • If soap and water are not easily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • 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 using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Receive a yearly influenza vaccine between September and May

Risk of Coronavirus to the general public in the USA is low because action is being taken by the CDC, WHO, and federal government which includes:

  • Quarantining those coming into the USA from China
  • Limiting travel to China,
  • Limiting visitors who have been in China or around someone from China in the last 14 days

These actions are changing as new information becomes available.

Remember to get your health information from reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) to avoid getting wrong or old information.

Web pages with accurate information are: