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What Arkansans need to know about the coronavirus and COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, spreads its way through the globe, so does fear. Here's what we know so far.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — One thing that makes it hard to predict the impact of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, is that there isn't a clear enough picture of how severe it is or could possibly be.

On March 11, the World Health Organization officially categorized the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic. 

However, the director-general of WHO has said that it is a controllable pandemic.

The organization has said when countries follow these pillars: being prepared; detecting, preventing and treating; reducing and suppressing; and fourth, being innovative and improving, then COVID-19 can effectively be controlled.

What is the novel coronavirus and what are the symptoms?

According to the CDC, the novel coronavirus, named as SARS-CoV-2, is a betacoronavirus similar to SARS and MERS.

All three of those viruses originated in bats. 

"The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted," the CDC said, "suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir."

The outbreak began in Wuhan, China, and initial reports linked it to a seafood and animal market. But later on, patients reported they didn't have exposure to animal markets, "indicating person-to-person spread."

Symptoms of the coronavirus are hard to differentiate from other upper respiratory infections.

But they include coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing and a fever.

The virus is transferred through what health officials call "droplets" that come from a person coughing or sneezing, and the ADH says that passing someone in a hallway isn't a way that the virus can be transferred.

"If someone hasn't started feeling symptoms within 14 days then it is likely they are not infected [with the novel coronavirus]," ADH officials said in a press conference on March 11.

Which is worse: COVID-19 or the seasonal flu?

Right now, because of COVID-19 being the novel coronavirus (or the new coronavirus) it means it is still new and difficult to nail down the specifics of the virus.

Arkansas Health Department officials say the difference between symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 is that the incubation period— or the amount of time between being infected and showing symptoms— for the flu is much more rapid than COVID-19.

Based on those that have been positively confirmed to have the virus, the symptoms are similar to the flu but not exactly the same.

Here is a graphic that separates the coronavirus, the flu and common allergies.

Credit: KTHV

Here's what is clear right now: COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu.

We also know that it tends to last longer than the flu. In mild cases, people are sick for about two weeks. In more severe cases, the sickness can last four to six weeks.

Click here to keep up with the number of persons under investigations or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas by the department of health.

Does Arkansas have any confirmed cases of coronavirus?

Key facts to know:

  • 37 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas across 11 counties
Credit: ADH

RELATED: Real-time updates: 11 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Arkansas, 33 total

What are schools in Arkansas doing about the presumptive coronavirus case?

After the first presumptive case of coronavirus was been confirmed in the state on Tuesday, March 11, schools throughout Arkansas began implementing plans to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

The governor has advised all schools in the counties where there have been presumptive positive cases to be closed at least until March 30.

Read more about schools closing due to the spread of the virus: Arkansas schools closing through March 30 as advised by state

What can Arkansans expect when it comes to restrictions on travel?

Governor Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency in Arkansas and is encouraging Arkansans to reconsider upcoming travel plans. 

With spring break coming up, he encouraged residents to consider the following things before traveling: 

  • Does the trip include a large gathering?
  • Is there a confirmed case in the state you're traveling to?
  • Will you be traveling with the elderly? 
  • Are you going to drive or utilize mass transport? 
  • Are there safer options?

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