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More information on novel coronavirus

Learn recent news about COVID-19 and tips for staying safe.

By Ruben Zorrilla, M.D., medical director, Health Center at Auraria

February 27, 2020

Health Center at Auraria door sign.Information on the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is being updated daily. If circumstances escalate significantly within the U.S., specifically with local implications, additional information will be communicated to MSU Denver and Auraria Campus constituents. At this time, there are no specific advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Colorado other than to practice the safety precautions outlined herein.   

What is novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and has now been detected in 32 locations internationally, including the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

According to the CDC, human coronaviruses are common throughout the world and usually cause mild to moderate illness in people. It is reported that this class of virus is responsible for 10-15% of the common cold.

Then why all the fuss?

This new virus is a public health concern because:

  • It is newly identified, so much is unknown about it.
  • Two other human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, have caused severe illness.
  • It appears to be spreading fast and can be deadly.

What is the risk?

Based on current information, the CDC considers this new virus a public health concern. However, the immediate health risk to the general U.S. public is considered low at this time. The CDC and the World Health Organization are closely monitoring the situation and are providing ongoing guidance.

COVID-19 risk depends on exposure. The U.S. has a handful of patients with the virus. Person-to-person spread has been seen among close contacts of people who have traveled from Wuhan. At this time, however, the virus is not spreading in the U.S. The general public is unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time.

Outbreaks of novel virus infections are always of public health concern. The risk from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications). The fact that this virus has caused illness, some resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread is concerning.

It’s important to watch for symptoms and follow infection-prevention protocols to reduce the chances of contraction.


Symptoms may be flulike, ranging from mild to serious, and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath


  • Current understanding about how COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.
  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • The method of transmission is understood to be via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly inhaled into the lungs.
  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.


People infected with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for the coronavirus infection.


There is no vaccine to prevent this virus, and the CDC advises that the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. COVID-19 has not been found to be spreading in the U.S., so there are no additional precautions recommended at this time.

Everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you develop flulike illness (fever, sore throat, cough, body aches). Seek medical help if needed.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Some perspective as of Monday:

  • Globally, there are 79,331 confirmed cases of the COVID-19, with 2,618 deaths.
  • In China, there are 77,262 confirmed cases, with 2,595 deaths.
  • Outside of China, there are 2,069 cases, with 23 deaths, in 29 countries.
  • In the U.S., there are 14 confirmed cases, with zero deaths.
  • In Japan, there are 144 confirmed cases, with one death.



CDC recommendations for using a facemask:

  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases.
  • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

What about surfaces contaminated with COVID-19?

  • Viruses, including coronavirus, cannot live outside the body for longer than 30 minutes.
  • Any packages from China have traveled in extreme temperatures – either cold or hot – for many hours. The infectious virus would have dried up and died long before the package made its way to a recipient in the U.S.

Can I get it from eating Chinese food or at Asian markets?

  • Chinese food is cooked, and viruses don’t survive for more than 30 minutes outside of the body.

Is COVID-2019 contagious before a person is even sick?

  • Researchers are working to answer this question. It’s not yet clear.
  • Travelers coming from China undergo screening and face a 14-day quarantine period.

Why do some people with COVID-2019 get sicker than others?

  • As with all viruses, some people are more vulnerable than others.
  • In general, people with suppressed immune systems, the very young and the very old are most likely to get sick.

Is COVID-19 seasonal like the flu? Will the illnesses slow down in the spring and summer?

  • Experts don’t know the answer.

Is flu or coronavirus more dangerous for me now?

  • As of Feb. 15, the CDC estimates 29 million U.S. influenza cases, with 280,000 hospital visits and 16,000 deaths.
  • If you live in the U.S., you are much more likely to get the seasonal flu than COVID-19.

To learn more or to ask questions, please contact the Health Center at Auraria.


Other helpful resources:

Stay healthy and safe during respiratory-virus season

A message from the Health Center at Auraria

What Coloradans need to know about coronavirus

Topics: Health, Health Center at Auraria, Safety

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