There’s no doubt by now you’ve heard about and felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but just what is a coronavirus and how serious is the situation? Here are some frequently asked questions and answers. For the most current information, visit the Centers for Disease Control website. For Kansas-specific information, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has a COVID-19 Resource Center. Kansas Farm Bureau also has launched a resource page to track ways to contribute your time, help educators and engage in your community.

What is COVID-19

COVID-19 is a strain of virus that causes upper respiratory infections in humans. It’s one of seven coronavirus types that can infect people. Common coronaviruses are the cause of the common cold around the world, but COVID-19 is a “novel coronavirus” because it’s new to humans.

Where did it come from?

The first reports of a new virus causing pneumonia emerged in the city of Wuhan in central China in late 2019. In early January Chinese scientists identified COVID-19 as a new strain of virus.

Isn’t this just like the flu?

No. While some of the symptoms of the virus resemble the flu, early evidence has shown COVID-19 spreads more easily, causes a higher hospitalization rate and has a higher fatality rate than influenza. In addition to having a vaccine for the flu, there are also numerous proven treatments available for the flu. Because COVID-19 is new to humans, there’s no natural immunity or proven treatments.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The primary way for the virus is spread is through close contact with someone who’s infected. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they send tiny droplets into the air. People can inhale those droplets or touch a surface they’ve landed on and possibly become infected themselves. If you are infected, it can take as few as two days or as many as 14 days to show symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some people may have mild or no symptoms despite carrying the virus.

Is there a cure?

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medication to treat COVID-19 at this time. Those who are infected should receive rest, fluids and fever control to relieve symptoms. Currently, there’s no vaccine available, either.

I’ve heard a lot about “flattening the curve,” what does that mean?

When health officials say flatten the curve, they’re referring to slowing the spread of the virus. Without protective measures, the number of cases would spike. Because a high percentage of symptomatic patients require hospitalization, allowing the virus to spread quickly could overwhelm hospital infrastructure, which has happened in parts of Italy.

Measures like social distancing aim to slow the spread of the virus. While the same number may become infected, if those cases happen over a longer time, health professionals won’t be inundated with cases, this is especially true in rural areas that had limited capacity before the pandemic.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing is staying at least six feet away from other people. This can prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is transmitted through close contact with others. Avoiding people is the best way to slow or stop the spread of disease. That’s why Kansas Farm Bureau has closed the state office in Manhattan and limited, postponed or canceled in-person meetings. Avoiding crowds is the best way to keep from getting sick or passing an illness on to someone else.

How can I protect myself and my family?

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If that’s not possible, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Limit touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home for the recommended 14 days if you are feeling sick or have traveled to an area with confirmed COVID-19.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a facial tissue. Dispose of the tissue and wash your hands as soon as possible.