Coronavirus – Everything We Know and Why We’re Talking About It

February 11, 2020

Image via Shutterstock.

Nina Zorfass, IIN Content Editor

Health Coaches play a vital role in helping people manage their physical and emotional health.

Every day, we’re evaluating how we feel physically and mentally in our bodies.

We scan our physical selves: Do I feel achy or am I sore from a workout? Do I have a headache because I didn’t sleep well or because I’m run down? Does my chest hurt from anxiety or is it something else?

We also scan our emotional selves: I’m feeling stressed because of work. I’m upset that I had an argument with my partner last night. I’m worried I might be getting sick.

We may be more attuned to those negative physical feelings during the winter season when catching a cold or the flu is more likely, but neither the physical nor emotional feelings listed above are season-specific. We all go through our days thinking millions of thoughts and going through ranges of emotions, and it can be overwhelming at times.

That’s where we know Health Coaches fit in. Health Coaches help clients manage these everyday stressors by providing a safe space to discuss their concerns with support, as well as provide tangible tools for effectively managing their stress and anxiety around such concerns.

Stress and anxiety are normal to experience; some stress is even good for you! But when there are factors out of our control, such as the perceived threat of getting sick, our thoughts can begin to take over. A Health Coach’s scope of practice is not the same as that of a doctor or physician, but they can provide incredible resources for helping clients maintain both physical and emotional health through their training in nutrition and coaching.

Health Coaches can’t prevent anyone from getting the flu as it’s contagious and despite how careful you are, it can happen. But they can provide tips for preventive and supportive care, such as engaging in healthy diet and lifestyle behaviors every day: drinking lots of water, being physically active, and eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains. Engaging in these behaviors daily will potentially help you get sick less often. Health Coaches can also arm you with tools and recommendations – getting lots of rest, drinking lots of water, and listening to your body to truly heal – to make any episode of being sick shorter and less miserable. 

Health Coaches can help you maintain your health all year round. They are valuable members of the greater healthcare team when it comes to understanding what’s happening in the world as it relates to health, including talking clients through the recent outbreak of coronavirus and how to best sift through the available information.

Equip yourself with knowledge for less stress and anxiety.

As you’ve probably read or seen on the news, there’s a new type of virus spreading called the coronavirus, formally known as the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). There’s a lot of unknown around this new virus, which has prompted travel bans, quarantines, and the spread of both intentional and unintentional misinformation.

When this same topic is on the front page every day, it’s hard to look away. You end up reading the updates to learn where the disease has reached, which can add stress and anxiety to your otherwise regular days.

The best and easiest thing you can do is equip yourself with knowledge and, if needed, set boundaries for how much news you’re consuming that triggers feelings of anxiety, fear, or stress.

Here’s what we know about the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV): 

How the virus originated:

The virus originated in the city of Wuhan, China, home to approximately 11 million people, and the majority of people infected are in China. The outbreak is presumed to have started in a Wuhan market that sells live animals. This coronavirus is “zoonotic,” which means that transmission occurs from animal to human. Because of its similarities to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), there’s likely an intermediary carrier. This means that there was a secondary animal responsible for transmitting the virus to humans, so the transmission path was animal to animal to human; then humans began spreading it to other humans. 

The symptoms of this coronavirus:

This coronavirus causes respiratory illness, with symptoms such as fever, severe cough, and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Other symptoms have been reported, such as diarrhea, and milder cases are said to resemble a flu or bad cold. Deaths from the coronavirus are caused by the resulting pneumonia and its complications, and the majority of deaths have been older people who also had comorbidities, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The infection rate and nature of the outbreak:

The infection rate of this new coronavirus is still being studied, but in general, respiratory illnesses can be quite infectious as these viruses travel through the air in droplets produced when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes. The incubation period – the time it takes for a person who was infected to display symptoms – is also still being studied, but understanding the incubation period is crucial for detection and prevention efforts. Currently, it is believed to be anywhere between 2 and 14 days.

The efforts to prevent further spreading of the virus have included implementing travel bans and quarantines that have major social and economic impacts. The rapid nature of this outbreak is likely due to the fact that Wuhan is a major transportation hub within China, linked to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Bangkok by high-speed railways. Almost all the infections that have occurred are in people who have recently traveled to or from China, but some cases have been reported from people who did not directly travel to or from China but instead had contact with those who did. This kind of transmission is what researchers are trying to nail down: Did they come into contact with someone who was showing symptoms, or can the virus be transmitted when no symptoms are present? 

The treatment for those infected with coronavirus:

There’s currently no vaccine for this virus, and it’s at least a year away from being produced. For those patients presenting more serious symptoms, some hospitals are implementing experimental treatments, including antiviral drugs normally used for HIV treatment.

The mortality rate of this coronavirus:

The mortality rate, while currently lower than SARS and MERS, is still unknown; there are likely many unreported cases due to those with milder cases not going to the doctor or hospital as their symptoms are minor or they are not inclusive of the major symptoms being reported. While this current lower mortality rate is promising, some researchers and epidemiologists note that a comparison of this outbreak to the SARS/MERS outbreak of 2002/2003 is not equal, due to the more interconnected nature of the world now than almost 20 years ago, including the robust infrastructure that currently exists for intra- and intercontinental travel.

Putting this outbreak into perspective.

We should take this kind of outbreak seriously, and that’s exactly what governments all over the world are doing. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency, “and while scary to think about – a worldwide emergency – it’s exactly what has to be done,” says Beverly Forsyth, MD, an infectious disease doctor in New York City. As a doctor trained in infectious disease prevention protocol through not only the SARS/MERS outbreak but also Ebola and now 2019-nCoV, she understands that the severity should not be downplayed, and the action of the WHO helps nations around the world get the training and information they need to keep their populations safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deploys resources across the United States to train physicians in prevention against the spread of infectious disease as well as supportive care. Dr. Forsyth explains that she understands the fear of the unknown – hearing about this new virus that has no vaccine, is causing death, and is still so misunderstood can be scary – but the work needed to track, learn, and stop the spread is already in progress, and that knowledge can be comforting.

Furthermore, it’s important to take a step back and assess other risks. Influenza, “the flu,” is similarly transmitted through air droplets. In the United States alone, there have been at least 22 million reported flu illnesses, 210,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 deaths. This statistic is not meant to frighten but is a reminder that the United States and countries around the world have to manage the spread of the flu every single year, a virus we know quite a bit about.

What next?

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition is committed to providing its community with accurate, current, and thoughtful content around all areas of health and wellness, including news that impacts our well-being.

The news around this outbreak continues to evolve. Sifting through the large amount of information available on this particular topic can be overwhelming, so learning to understand your threshold for absorbing this news is key; stress and anxiety can easily snowball if mixed with fear.

As you would any other day, continue to engage in healthy diet and lifestyle behaviors, which can also protect and strengthen your immunity. Wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and always consult with a healthcare practitioner if you have concerns about your health.

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