Coronavirus: What You Should Know

Leonard Mermel, DO

There are various types of virus that can cause infections in the respiratory tract of humans. For example, the common cold is caused by the rhinovirus. Another virus is known as coronavirus. Human coronavirus can cause common cold-like symptoms.

Novel coronavirus

While there are several strains of coronavirus, the current outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, is considered a “novel” coronavirus. That means it is not typical because it was transmitted from non-human animals to humans, and now it is being transmitted from human to human.

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of this novel coronavirus are different than those associated with the human coronavirus. By the time people seek medical treatment, a vast majority of them have a cough and fever, and some patients experience shortness of breath typically associated with pneumonia.

Symptoms we normally attribute to the common cold, such as runny nose and sore throat, appear to be less common symptoms of this novel coronavirus.


There is still widespread influenza in many parts of the US, so don’t forget general precautions you should take to reduce your risk of a respiratory viral infection such as:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • When sneezing or coughing, do so into a tissue and wash your hands immediately, or into your sleeve.
  • Stay home if you are showing symptoms of a respiratory illness.

What should you do?

If someone has symptoms of a respiratory viral infection, particularly cough, fever, shortness of breath, and they have had contact with someone who has proven or suspected novel coronavirus or have traveled to an area where this infection is known to be, go to an emergency department. It’s best to call ahead of time to let them know you are experiencing the symptoms so you can be masked and escorted to a room upon arrival to minimize the risk of transmission.

Lifespan’s response

At Lifespan, our novel coronavirus response team has quickly put various interventions in place at our hospitals and facilities to reduce the risk of transmission. Those include:

  • hand hygiene products
  • facial tissues
  • masks for someone coming in with respiratory viral symptoms and directions to notify staff of their symptoms and travel history upon arriving at the hospital

Learn more about Novel Coronavirus 2019 and Lifespan's response.

We will continue to monitor the situation and do everything we can to prevent the spread to our patients, visitors and staff.

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