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There is an expanding global outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. The disease the virus causes has been named COVID-19. While most COVID-19 cases are associated with travel to or from China, person-to-person spread is now being reported in other places, including Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. For the general public, who are unlikely to be exposed to the virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is low.
Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
A: 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The virus has now been detected in multiple locations internationally, including in the United States.
Q: How does the virus spread?
A: Many of the initial patients in the outbreak had a link to a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, the virus is now being spread person-to-person. Most often, spread from person-to-person happens among close contacts (about 6 feet), mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Q: Is COVID-19 the same as other coronaviruses?
A: It is important to understand that there are seven different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of the seven coronaviruses are very common, cause milder symptoms (similar to the common cold), and most people will be infected with at least one of these in their lifetime. The other three of the seven coronaviruses are rare and can cause more severe illness; these include the COVID-19.
Q: What is the risk of the COVID-19 to Iowans? Are certain groups of people more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than others?
A: Currently, the risk for COVID-19 is associated with recent travel to China or Iran, not race or country of origin. Overall, the COVID-19 risk to Iowans remains low at this time.
Q: What can employers do to reduce the risk of spread of respiratory illness within the workplace?
A: CDC recommends the following as best practices for reducing the spread of illness in the workplace:
● Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees: