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UPDATE: Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Blue Shield of California is closely monitoring COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, as more cases are reported

Blue Shield of California medical experts continue to keep a close watch on the Coronavirus outbreak (known as COVID-19) which is creating new risks for Americans as it spreads beyond China.

Here are a few questions and answers for those concerned about this ongoing health issues by Dr. Malaika Stoll:

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses. Under microscopes, these viruses appear round like the sun, with a surrounding bright ring, just like the sun’s outer layer which is called the “corona” -- hence the name. Some coronaviruses are mild, for example the virus that causes the common cold. Other Coronaviruses -- such as the one that has caused the recent outbreak in Wuhan, China -- can be very dangerous, and even deadly. 

What are symptoms of Coronavirus?

Symptoms include cough, sore throat, high temperature, feeling tired and achy. These symptoms are similar to those of the flu, which is caused by influenza virus. People with underlying health issues are more likely to experience serious symptoms from the flu and from this Coronavirus.

How can I protect myself from Coronavirus?

Frequent handwashing and avoiding close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections, are important to prevent this and other viruses from spreading. Scientists are working overtime to develop a vaccine for the virus, but we’re told that any kind of breakthrough is still weeks, if not months, away. However, staying up to date on other vaccinations that are available, including the flu shot, will help support your overall health.

Is there a treatment for Coronavirus?

Because this is a viral outbreak, antibiotics won’t help. Treatment is supportive, such as helping patients breathe and stay hydrated. Although severe and fatal illness has been reported in some patients, many more have milder symptoms and have recovered fully without hospitalization.

Where can I get more information?

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention special coronavirus page.

Malaika Stoll, M.D., is senior medical director for Blue Shield of California. She leads the nonprofit health plan’s team of regional medical directors who work with local providers to ensure Blue Shield members have access to quality, affordable care.