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UGA Expert on Coronavirus Outbreak

Chinatopix via AP

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. Some countries, include the U.S. have issued travel advisories, airlines have suspended flights and companies like Facebook and Ford have banned travel to China.

Dr. Trina von Waldner is a pharmacist and the Director of Continuing Professional Development and Outreach at UGA’s College of Pharmacy. She explains what a coronavirus is.

“So coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that cause the common cold in many people every year,” according to von Waldner. “The difference with this one though is that it is, it spreads from animals to humans, which is what happened with this virus, and it seems to be particularly virulent.”

Von Waldner says the illness is very similar to previous outbreaks of respiratory illnesses like SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] in 2003 and MERS [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome] in 2012. 

She says the timing of the virus is particularly challenging.

“It’s coming at the time of the year when influenza is out there and it looks a lot like influenza.”

But that’s just one of the illness with the oft-quoted flu-like symptoms currently raising concern.

“The other thing to me that could be a potential confounder is EVALI, [e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury] the vaping-related illnesses that we’re dealing with in the United States. If it’s EVALI, it needs to be referred quickly because we know that has been deadly. There’s a lot going on right now with things that look a lot alike.”

Credit AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
A medical worker in a hazardous materials suit uses a body thermal scanner to check temperature of Chinese passenger who just arrived from Beijing at the Yaroslavsky railway station in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

The very young, old, or those with compromised immune systems are hardest hit. Experts say the best way the rest of us to stay well is fairly simple.

“Stay home if you’re sick, cover your cough and wash your hands!”