News of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also known as the “Wuhan Coronavirus,” are everywhere. Social media platforms and news channels are booming with updates on the spread of its outbreak from China into other countries, including the United States.
So far, 11 cases have been confirmed in the United States, six of which are in California. Store shelves across the state are running out of face masks as many prepare for the worst. But, should we worry this much?
Coronaviruses are a diverse family of viruses found in many animal species. In humans, coronaviruses typically cause mild infection of the upper respiratory tract and are responsible for roughly 10% of common colds in the United States. So, why is the 2019-nCoV different?
Viral infections are very specific to their host and rarely cross between species. In the rare occurrence that they do, their potential for infection and disease is quite troublesome. The 2019-nCoV is a new type of coronavirus suspected to have originated in an animal host (likely a bat) and is referred to as a beta-coronavirus.
The 2019 Novel (or “new”) Coronavirus likely originated in Wuhan, China sometime in December of 2019 where the first cases were reported. Since then, thousands of individuals have been infected in China with a death toll of over 400. Cases of 2019-nCoV have been confirmed in other countries including the United States, making this a pandemic of international concern.
China has collaborated with international officials and the World Health Organization (W.H.O) to stop the outbreak. The United States has taken measures to control travel to and from China in efforts to contain the pandemic. As of February 2, 2020, 11 cases of 2019-nCoV have been confirmed in the U.S., most of them with a recent travel history to China.
Public Health Departments throughout the state are collaborating to stop the spread of this virus. Diagnostic kits are already available to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), who are restlessly working to protect the public. Much remains unknown about 2019-nCov at this moment so prevention is key.
How to Protect Yourself?
The best way to protect yourself is to prevent infection. Wash your hands frequently, avoid big crowds, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and keep clear of those displaying symptoms. It is important to mention that displaying flu-like symptoms does not mean infection with 2019-nCoV.
Only a few cases have been reported in the U.S. most of which have a recent travel history to China with only one person-to-person transmission confirmed. Those with symptoms and a recent travel history to China or close interaction with someone who has are a greater risk. If you suspect an infection, contact your healthcare provider ahead of time and avoid going out where you can spread the disease. Seek medical attention promptly.
Symptoms of Coronavirus 2019
Symptoms for the 2019-nCoV include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms including body ache, headache, and GI problems have also been reported. The severity of this infection varies greatly, with the majority of cases in the U.S. displaying mild symptoms. Those with comorbidities like heart disease and diabetes, however, are at greater risk.
There is no standard treatment or vaccine available for 2019-nCoV. Efforts thus far, have focused on prevention and supportive care for already patients. A few potential anti-viral treatments are under investigation but nothing is definitive at the moment. It is important to prevent the spread of infection by being proactive with hand and respiratory hygiene.
- “2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-NCoV) Situation Summary.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.
- “Transmission of Novel Coronavirus (2019-NCoV).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Jan. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html.
- “Advice for Public.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public.