Get the facts on coronavirus

Information about the coronavirus outbreak is spreading fast, but what do we actually know about the illness? CBC News medical contributor and family physician Dr. Peter Lin breaks down the facts about what it is, where it came from, how it spreads and what you can do to protect yourself.

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Host: Dr. Peter Lin
Producer: Avneet Dhillon
Production editors: Charles Fogel, Robert Meier
Senior Producer: Roxanna Woloshyn
Videographer: Yanjun Li
Graphic designer: Thomas Hall

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So we need to get the facts straight. How
does this virus work, how does ittransmit, where does it want to go, and
let's protect ourselves. I'm Dr. PeterLin. I'm a family physician in Toronto,
Canada. The coronavirus is a family ofviruses that can cause as mild things as
just a common cold, all the way up toSARS or MERS. These are these bad
pneumonias that we're talking about. Andbasically what these viruses are, they
look like a tennis ball with all thesespikes sticking out of it. And depending
on the type of spike, it allows thatvirus to attach to certain places. So
some viruses, they have this spike thatattaches to your nose. So basically you just get a common cold.But the SARS virus and this new virus
that we're talking about has the spikethat allows it to attach to the cells in
your lung and when it attaches there, itputs in information to make photocopies
of itself. So it uses our equipment tomake more viruses. >> I'm declaring a public health emergency of internationalconcern over the global outbreak of
novel coronavirus.>> Most of the coronaviruses live in
animals. In this particular case, it wasfrom Wuhan. There was a fish market where they were selling live animals and thethought is that the virus was in a live
animal, then it crossed into a human. Butthen what we found was that people were
getting sick in terms of healthcareworkers, in terms of family members that
were looking after them, which now meantthat the virus can pass from human to
another human. Just like all viruses, itneeds to reach a target, which is your
lung and it has to get there with yourhelp. It has no feet and no wings. So
therefore it needs us to move it there.So that's why we keep saying don't hang
around sneezy people because you'regonna breathe it in. And don't touch your
face because that's how the virus isgoing to get in. The masks are helpful, but
they're not necessary because they'releaky. The ones that you and I buy
basically have pockets here, so thereforethe virus can get in. What the masks
really do is they stop us from touchingour face. If you're sick, we tend to mask
you, so therefore you're not spewing outthe viruses to other people sitting
around you. The true people that have thereal masks are the N95. Those are sealed. These are for the doctors that may becaring for the patients. So in the
beginning, the coronavirus will causekind of like flu-like symptoms or a cold. So people just get the stuffy nose, thatkind of thing. But you'll understand that
as soon as that virus startsmanufacturing in your lung cells, they're
producing all these copies of the virus.All of a sudden now you kill the lung
cells, so now you can't exchange oxygenand that's why one of the early symptoms
is people get very short of breath andthey tend to have a difficult time breathing and that's why they end up inhospital. So currently unfortunately we
don't have a direct treatment for thecoronavirus, so we don't have a
medication that can kill it off. And soit's really supportive. So in other words,
the patient can't breathe, we give themoxygen help them to breathe, they can't
drink, so therefore we give them fluidsto support them. Their kidneys begin to
shut down, we help them with all thosethings. So it's a very supportive process. This is a new virus that we've neverseen before, so our immune system, our
army, are having a hard time figuring outwhat to do. So usually what we have to do
is we make something called antibodies.So these are things that can grab on to
the spikes that we see on the virus andit'll get rid of the virus for you and
that will actually bring you back togood health. So therefore the elderly may have aworse outcome and of course the young
children, the babies, their immunesystem is not so good either, so they may
not make those antibodies as well. Sojust remember your hands may be with
virus. Virus cannot hurt you because itcan't get through the skin, but the
moment I do this, now I've brought thevirus right to where it wants to go. So
let's remember not to touch our hands toour face. So let's say you think that you
might have been on a plane or you mighthave bumped into somebody that has it,
what should you do? So the first thing isto contact a healthcare worker to tell
them that potentially you have it. Ifyou're feeling symptoms and you're going
to go into a facility, call ahead. OK. Sowhether you're calling the paramedics or
whether you're calling the hospital oryour doctor, just mention that you were
on a flight. If you don't have anysymptoms, then what we do is a little bit
of a self-quarantine. In other words, wecan just keep you away from other people
and so you don't go in to parties, don'tgo with your friends, don't go into
public transportation. So we can containit very easily by making sure that you
do a self-confinement so to speak forthe let's say 7 to 14 days is the
longest incubation time, so after that ifyou're feeling well, then you don't have
anything to worry about.If we get the facts right, then we don't
have to be overly worried, but we do theright things so that we don't get the
virus ourselves, and that wedon't pass it on to others. And if we
look after each other in this way, thisvirus will have nowhere to go.
It needs us to move it, it needs us tomake copies for it, and if we don't help
it, then the virus will stop. So we havethe power to do that, right now.

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