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The 2019 Novel Coronavirus

There’s a new virus on the block and its name is corona. (Not for the beer – under a microscope it looks like a solar corona/crown.) Most likely, this new coronavirus originated in animals at a wildlife and seafood market in Wuhan China before transferring to human hosts in January of 2020. The timing of infection was unfortunate, as the lunar new year was beginning and many people were traveling to visit family.

a model of the 2019 novel coronavirus

An illustration showing the ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Image courtesy of: Alissa Eckert, MS, Dan Higgins, MAM

At Total Prepare we offer our prayers for those fighting the viruses, and our condolences to the families of those who have lost that fight. For those of us lucky enough to be healthy, here are some tips to stay that way:


Early intervention and avoidance is much easier if you know what to avoid. The Ontario government has a great page with lots of great information on this topic. Symptoms of the new coronavirus are reminiscent of the flu and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pneumonia
  • Kidney Failure
  • Death (severe cases)

How to Stay Safe

At present, it is believed that virus is primarily spread through ‘droplet transmission’ – large “respiratory secretion droplets” – or as I like to call it, lung gunk. Basically, it’s spread through sneezing and coughing so cover your mouth! Risk of severe illness is increased for the elderly, or anyone with weakened immune function/pre-existing chronic diseases.

an elctron microscope transmission showing coronaviruses

An electron microscope transmission showing the distinctive crown, or sun-like appearance that gives coronaviruses their name.
Image courtesy of: CDC/ Dr. Fred Murphy; Sylvia Whitfield

Different types of coronavirus can cause everything from the common cold to SARS, but the rules to minimize your risk are the same for all types:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Don’t make prolonged contact with sick people
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow – not into your hand or onto your neighbour
  • Disinfect surfaces
  • Avoid high risk areas like farms, animal markets, and abattoirs.
  • Avoid animals where possible – alive or dead. (Indoor pets are probably fine.)
  • Avoid surfaces with animal droppings on them.

Whoops, too late

Despite our best efforts we’ve (hypothetically) fallen ill. What now? Unfortunately there are no specific treatments or vaccines for the new coronavirus. If your symptoms feel worse than a normal cold, consult your doctor – they can prescribe things to suppress pain and fever. In the meantime, as with any kind of coronavirus, drink plenty of water and rest as much as you can. Chicken soup is always good too.

If you believe you might have the new coronavirus, don’t panic. Simply avoid close contact with others, alert medical professionals and follow their direction.

Flying High

Thanks to the packed in, poorly ventilated nature of modern air travel, there is an increased risk for those traveling during this time. If you feel sick after/during travel, and the symptoms match the virus, alert a flight crew member and/or medical professional. They will provide guidance and decide if you need further medical assessment. If seeing a doctor, tell them what countries you visited and if you had any medical treatment while there.

The Other Type of Viral Spread

As everyone knows by now, our motto here at Total Prepare is to ‘be prepared, not scared.’ This is true for the current situation too. We’re seeing a lot of scary claims on social media about the virus, and it’s spread, but the good news is, many of the stories are untrue. Be sure to check the sources of everything you read to ensure that you are not being misinformed. If something seems especially scandalous or dramatic (people collapsing in the street for example) take extra precautions to make sure it is real before sharing the story. Viral news symptoms include panic, rumours, and feelings of unease.


With the 2019 novel coronavirus (or 2019-nCoV as it’s also known) on the rise, it’s easy to worry. Step back, take a deep breath, and take the same precautions you would for the common cold (they’re from the same family after all.) Wash hands, cough into your sleeve or a tissue, disinfect surfaces, and avoid contact with sick people where possible.

Stay safe out there! Thank you for reading.

This article was written by Zenia Platten – Author and Emergency Preparedness Professional.


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