No need to panic. YET! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (termed “2019-nCoV”), which was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December 2019.
As of now, 2019-nCoV is not circulating in U.S. communities. However, there is notable concern from experts indicating it may just be a matter of time. The CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and other international experts are working closely with Chinese Health authorities to learn more about the outbreak to help anticipate what is to come.
Confirmed cases in China and internationally are rapidly climbing. Over 130 deaths in China have been attributed to the outbreak thus far. As of Monday, January 27th, 2020, there have been 5 confirmed cases in the United States with 110 persons under investigation (PUI) across 26 states.
The number of positively identified 2019-nCoV international cases grew by 60% overnight Monday to Tuesday. Increased travel to and from China due to the Lunar New Year which was on January 25, 2020 will continue to potentiate the spread. Cause for concern? Maybe a little…
Do I have the flu, coronavirus, or something else?
The 2019-nCoV appears to cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms, which may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The CDC believes that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as little as 2 days to 14 days after exposure. Presentation can look just like the flu and other common respiratory illnesses.
There is not a specific treatment for 2019-nCoV infection at this time. Care for the coronavirus is supportive. Antibiotics will not help unless a secondary infection is present. Consult your primary care provider or local clinic practitioner for evaluation if you present with flu-like symptoms. After an evaluation, the healthcare professional will escalate to the local public health department on a case-by-case basis if a patient’s clinical presentation or exposure history is concerning.
How are coronaviruses and 2019-nCoV spread?
While not fully understood, preliminary reports suggest 2019-nCov emerged from an animal source but is now spreading person-to-person. Coronaviruses are believed to spread through:
- Air by coughing and sneezing
- Touching an infected object or surface then touching mouth, nose or eyes
- Close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands
How do I stay protected?
Currently, there are no vaccines to protect you against 2019-nCoV or human coronavirus infection. The CDC and WHO recommend the following to reduce the risk of infection:
- Frequent handwashing
- Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
- Do not touch eyes, mouth, or nose without washing hands
- Seek medical attention if you are feeling ill
- Do not come to work or go to school if feeling ill
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, specifically Wuhan
Still worried you may have the coronavirus?
No doubt that 2019-nCoV is concerning, but let’s not forget the other scarier beast that forges its way into our communities each year - the flu! The CDC estimates that so far, this season has brought at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations, and 8,200 deaths from flu. Influenza-like illness rates continue to rise this season. Have you received the flu vaccine? It’s not too late! Ask your local pharmacist or clinic practitioner about getting the flu vaccine today!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China. Retrieved on January 28, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.