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What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

A Master of Public Health online program can prepare you to lead through today’s biggest challenges.

When there’s an outbreak of disease, public health professionals serve as indispensable conduits of truth. Separating fact from fiction about the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, is the most recent and urgent challenge for those safeguarding public health.

Providing an accurate flow of information can be especially difficult with a rapidly spreading infection like the new coronavirus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “an emerging, rapidly evolving situation.”1

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

When it began issuing daily status reports on January 21, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) documented 282 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.2 Two weeks later, the total number of cases climbed to 17,391,3 and has been rising since.

“WHO is working closely with global experts, governments, and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak,”4 the organization reports on its website.

WHO offers a variety of resources to stakeholders that range from governments to community health workers. In this excerpted Q&A, WHO shares vital information about what it calls a “public health emergency of international concern.”5 Here are some of the important facts you should know about the coronavirus:6

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

What is a “novel” coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The new, or “novel,” coronavirus [COVID-19] … had not previously been detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Who can catch this virus?

People living or traveling in an area where the virus is circulating may be at risk of infection. … [The virus] is circulating in China, where the vast majority of people infected have been reported. Those infected from other countries are among people who have recently traveled from China or who have been living or working closely with those travelers. … Health workers caring for persons who are sick with the virus are at higher risk and must protect themselves with appropriate infection prevention and control procedures.

How does the virus spread?

The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when a person, for example, coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. It is important that everyone practice good respiratory hygiene. For example, sneeze or cough into a flexed elbow, or use a tissue and discard it immediately into a closed bin. It is also very important for people to wash their hands regularly with either alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

How dangerous is it?

As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with the virus can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

What can I do to protect myself?

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty. … Maintain at least 3 feet distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing, and have a fever. Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

Wearing a medical mask can help limit the spread of some respiratory disease. However, using a mask alone is not guaranteed to stop infections and should be combined with other prevention measures. …

WHO advises on rational use of medical masks thus avoiding the unnecessary waste of precious resources and potential misuse of masks This means using masks only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have suspected virus infection with mild symptoms, or are caring for someone with suspected virus infection.

What is the correct way to wear and dispose of a mask?

Before putting on a mask, wash your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Cover your mouth and nose with the mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not reuse single-use masks. To remove the mask, remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask) and discard immediately in a closed bin. Wash hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the virus?

To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus. However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to coordinate efforts to develop medicines to treat the virus with a range of partners.

If you want to protect yourself from getting infected with the new coronavirus, you should maintain basic hand and respiratory hygiene, safe food practices, and avoid close contact, when possible, with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. The following measures are not specifically recommended as COVID-19 remedies as they are not effective to protect yourself and can be even harmful:

  • Taking vitamin C
  • Smoking
  • Drinking herbal teas
  • Wearing multiple masks to maximize protection
  • Taking self-medication such as antibiotics

Become a Trusted Public Health Professional

Public health graduate programs can provide the education you need to help build healthy communities. When you’re looking for an online education partner, choose an accredited university that knows public health and offers a program that is just the right fit for you.

Walden University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program has Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accreditation, your assurance that it meets accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service. CEPH accreditation is a sign of Walden’s commitment to quality, professional integrity, and student-centeredness.

Walden is dedicated to delivering the knowledge and skills MPH-degree students are looking for. Its MS in public health degree program provides foundational public health knowledge as well as valuable global perspectives shared by Walden’s international student body. You’ll use interactive media to simulate real-world public health issues and solutions. And in Walden’s public health program, you’ll find an impactful field experience designed to move your career, and your community, forward.

An MPH degree can prepare you for a variety of careers, including:7

  • Occupational health and safety specialist
  • Environmental health specialist
  • Disease investigator
  • Public health educator
  • Public health analyst
  • Public health policy coordinator 
  • Public health emergency preparedness and response coordinator
  • Global health professional
  • Research analyst
  • Health policy advisor
  • Epidemiologist
  • Community health worker  

Walden offers one of the world’s largest suites of online public health degree programs available today. In addition to the MPH degree program, options include the BS in Public Health, PhD in Public Health, and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs.

The fast-paced field of public health needs world-changers with talent and passion. Let a public health degree from Walden help you create positive social change and strong communities—and build a healthier tomorrow.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering public health graduate programs including the Master of Public Health (MPH). Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

7Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of a degree program.

Program Accreditation
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) Board of Councilors acted at its September 6, 2019, meeting to accredit the Master of Public Health program at Walden University for a five-year term. Based on CEPH procedures and the documentation submitted, the program’s initial accreditation date will be recorded as February 3, 2018. CEPH is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and programs of public health. CEPH accreditation provides assurance that the program has been evaluated and met accepted public health profession standards in practice, research, and service. For a copy of the final self-study document and/or final accreditation report, please contact the dean of the College of Health Sciences and Public Policy ([email protected]).

Note on certification: The National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) offers the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential as a voluntary core credential for public health professionals. Individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and at least five subsequent years of public health work experience will be eligible to take the CPH exam. However, for individuals without these qualifications, a candidate must be a graduate of a school or program of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Walden’s MPH program’s initial CEPH accreditation date was recorded as February 3, 2018.

Students should evaluate all requirements related to national credentialing agencies and exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification. For more information about the CPH credential, students should visit

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,