COVID-19: Facts versus fears

Thursday, March 19, 2020
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Photo by Martin Sanchez

COVID-19 is believed to have started in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

As of March 18, there have been 193,475 confirmed cases worldwide, and 7,864 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Those numbers span 164 countries or territories.

Cases in China account for more than half of all cases and deaths, at 81,151 and 3,242 respectively.

In the United States, as of Monday, March 16, there had been 1,714 confirmed cases and 41 deaths. As of Tuesday morning, March 17, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 3,487 cases and 68 deaths. As of Wednesday, March 18, there were 4,226 cases and 75 deaths, according to the CDC.

Montana was added to that list last Friday with four cases. As of Thursday morning, Montana’s total was 11. A total of 509 people have been tested, with all but 10 having negative results, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

According to the CDC, COVID-19 is a pandemic by the following definition: “A global outbreak of a disease that occurs when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between people sustainably. Because there is little to no preexisting immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.”

The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of everyone who contracts COVID-19 recovers without any treatment.


COVID-19 is spread through droplets from the nose or mouth of someone infected with the virus. These droplets are left on surfaces, which are touched by healthy people. If the healthy person then touches his or her face with the fingers that contacted the infected droplets, they spread the infection to themselves.

Because it is a new strain of the coronavirus, there is not a vaccine, although there are multiple efforts underway toward this end.


Coronaviruses are not new. WHO explains that the coronavirus is a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to severe diseases, including MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.

Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people. For example, SARVs was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS was transmitted from dromedary camels to humans.

COVID-19 is a new strain and that factor is largely what is giving the collective global medical community cause for concern.


Fever, a cough and difficulty breathing are the primary symptoms of COVID-19, according to WHO and Stillwater Billings Community Healthcare Nurse Natasha Sailer. Some people have it and experience no symptoms at all. Some people also have runny noses, aches, sore throats and diarrhea. WHO estimates that 80 percent of everyone who contracts COVID-19 recovers without any treatment.

People ages 60 and higher and those with certain preexisting medical conditions are at the greatest risk to develop serious problems such as pneumonia — if they become infected.