I get a lot of questions from patients and their family members about just what is COVID-19 and where did it come from? Well, COVID-19 is the abbreviate name for the Coronavirus and the number 19 refers to the year that it was first identified in human beings. Coronavirus describes what the virus looks like under a microscope and the Coronavirus family has been around for thousands of years in many different mammal species including humans. This specific strain of Coronavirus is different because it appears to have jumped from one mammal species - bats - to another - humans - in December, 2019. Because the human immune system had never been previously exposed to this specific strain of the virus, the body wasn't able to mount an immune response to COVID-19 and therefore it made us sick. It's a respiratory virus that's carried from place to place in respiratory droplets, which are those small microscopic pieces of saliva that come out of our mouths when we walk and when we talk and breathe and cough and sneeze. It can be deposited onto door handles and other inanimate objects and survive there for up to four days. It can spread rapidly from person to person and make people sick. It's estimated that one infected person can infect at least two other people and that the number of COVID-19 cases in any given community can double about every four to five days. COVID-19 has an average incubation period of five days, but some can develop symptoms and therefore be infectious up to 14 days or more after initial exposure. Although it produces very mild symptoms in about 85% of patients, it can be spread easily from person to person even when you don't feel sick. Unfortunately, in high risk groups such as individuals over the age of 70, people with complicated preexisting medical conditions and compromised immune systems, it can sometimes produce a unique and potentially deadly form of pneumonia or severe acute respiratory syndrome. Right now, there is no specific cure for COVID-19 which is why it's important for us to both limit our exposure as well as our risk of transmitting COVID-19 to other people working together. We can help to stem the tide and weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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