Coronavirus: News vs. reality

Feb 10, 2020


In case you’ve missed the headlines, a novel coronavirus — dubbed 2019-nCoV by the Centers for Disease Control — has entered the human population. The outbreak, which began in China, has spread quickly.

This newly discovered virus comes from the same family as the SARS and MERS viruses. So far, 2019-nCoV has a much lower death rate than SARS and MERS, but the rate is still worrisome at about 2%.

With thousands infected and hundreds dead, some countries have restricted entry by people who have been in China. Some airlines have suspended flights to and from China, and the U.S. State Department recommends no Americans travel there.

Ready to panic? You probably don’t need to.

“At this point, those with higher risk, including the elderly and those with health problems, are much more likely to be infected by influenza than 2019-nCov,” says Dr. Christopher Cirino, Adventist Health Portland infectious disease specialist.

Unless you’ve recently traveled to the affected areas of China or are in close proximity to someone who has, you can leave the hazmat suit in your Amazon shopping cart. Focusing on more realistic viral threats like influenza probably makes more sense.

Steps to staying well

Though there is no vaccine for 2019-nCoV as there is for influenza, you can take other virus-prevention steps to steer clear of many of the season’s illnesses, both the exotic and the all-to-common.

Wash hands frequently: This trick is so simple and yet so underused. Hand sanitizer can also help, but there’s nothing as good as washing your hands with soap often.

Don’t touch your face: It’s so hard to keep our hands off ourselves. But every time you brush your hair off your face or rub your tired eyes, you connect your hands with major entry points into your body—namely, your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Get some sleep: Set the phones down, turn down the heat and tuck in for a solid seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Regular good sleep is a huge boost to your immune system.

Eat your fruits and veggies: Your immune system gets pumped up by a variety of vitamins. The best way to get the ones you need is to eat a wide variety of colorful fruit and vegetables.

Even what you take all the right precautions, you may still get a cold or other virus this winter. Your Adventist Health Portland primary care doctor can advise you on the best way to get better. Established patients can even hold their visit online with our e-visits.

To learn more about the latest coronavirus outbreak, check out Dr. Cirino’s blog at