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 Answers to your most common questions:

1. What is a coronavirus?

It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The Coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to lung lesions and pneumonia.

2. How contagious is the virus?

It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can travel through the air, enveloped in tiny respiratory droplets that are produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes.

3. Where has the virus spread?

As this is a rapidly evolving situation, you can refer to this map that is routinely updated by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE

4. What symptoms should I look out for?

Symptoms, which can take between two to 14 days to appear, include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, but people may be able to pass on the virus even before they develop symptoms.

5. How do I keep myself and others safe?

Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick and avoiding touching your face.

6. How can I prepare for a possible outbreak?

Keep a 30-day supply of essential medicines. Get a flu shot. Have essential household items on hand. Have a support system in place for elderly family members.

7. What if I’m traveling?

The State Department has issued a global Level 3 health advisory telling United States citizens to “reconsider travel” to all countries because of the worldwide effects of the coronavirus. This is the department’s second-highest advisory.

8. How long will it take to develop a treatment or vaccine?

Several drugs are being tested, and some initial findings are expected soon. A vaccine to stop the spread is still at least a year away.

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