In December of 2019, a respiratory virus known as the novel coronavirus was detected in Wuhan City, China. The virus has rapidly spread through Wuhan and other parts of the country. Cases of novel coronavirus infection are also being reported internationally, including in the United States.
As of February 2nd, 2020, eight people in four different states (Arizona, California, Illinois, Washington, and Massachusetts) have confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection. Thousands of confirmed cases have been identified in China to date, and more than 300 patients have died from the illness.
The new virus has raised concern from health organizations globally. In a January 24 telebriefing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the immediate threat to the U.S. is low, but they are continuing to investigate and respond as the situation rapidly evolves. Here is what we know about the virus so far.
What is the novel coronavirus?
Named “2019-nCoV,” the novel coronavirus belongs to a large family of viruses that infect the nose, sinuses, or upper throat. They can infect animals or humans, and sometimes both.
Most coronaviruses are mild, causing conditions such as the common cold or mild flu-like symptoms. Some coronaviruses, however, can be very serious. The novel coronavirus is related to the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 800 people since 2012. It is also related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which caused 774 deaths.
At this time, the severity of the novel coronavirus has not been determined. Health organizations are still learning about the characteristics of this virus.
How is the novel coronavirus spread?
Many of the initial cases were in people who had recently visited the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China, where a variety of live animals are sold. This suggests that the illness can be transferred from animals to humans. It appears that the virus can also be passed from person to person. The likely method of human-to-human transmission is through tiny droplets spread by coughing and sneezing.
What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus infection?
While health organizations continue to work to understand the virus, it is currently thought that symptoms of novel coronavirus appear anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure.
An early study of 41 infected patients found that the most common symptoms were fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle pain, fatigue, and pneumonia. Less common symptoms were headache, diarrhea, and coughing up blood or sputum.
While the illness can be severe, resulting in serious complications like pneumonia and even death, other cases have been mild. Our understanding of the symptoms of 2019-nCoV infection will grow as health agencies continue to investigate.
How can I protect against the coronavirus?
The best protection against the virus is to practice the same daily habits that help prevent the common cold or flu. This includes frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, and cleaning objects and surfaces frequently. To protect others, stay home when you are sick and remember to cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve.
Travelers should avoid all unnecessary travel to Hubei Province, China. If you must travel, avoid contact with sick people, animals, animal markets, and animal products. If you have symptoms, call a healthcare provider immediately.
What is the treatment for the novel coronavirus?
There is currently no vaccine or antiviral treatment for the 2019-nCoV infection. Respiratory and blood tests are available to confirm whether or not you have the virus. Treatment is focussed on relieving symptoms and preventing transmission. In severe cases, care to support vital organ functions may be necessary.
What should I do if I might have been exposed to the novel coronavirus?
If you think you might have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, call us, your healthcare provider, or the nearest hospital right away. Tell them you think you might have the novel coronavirus, and let them know if you have recently traveled to Wuhan or been in contact with another infected person. Calling ahead is important so that healthcare providers are prepared to take precautions to limit your exposure to other patients.
For quick access to a qualified healthcare provider, choose from more than 40 Physicians Immediate Care clinics in Illinois and Indiana. Find a location and contact information for your closest clinic here.
What is the current risk of getting the novel coronavirus?
If you haven’t traveled to China, it is currently minuscule. “When we think about the relative danger of this new coronavirus and influenza, there’s just no comparison,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Kaiser Health News. “Coronavirus will be a blip on the horizon in comparison. The risk is trivial.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that so far this season, there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses for the 2019-2020 season, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths in the U.S. The CDC reports there have been 54 reported flu-related pediatric deaths this season from Influenza B viruses.
Where can I find updates on the novel coronavirus situation?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) post new information about the virus on an ongoing basis. You can read their latest updates here. Physicians Immediate Care can help determine and coordinate your care. While we are not the resource you need if you have the novel coronavirus, we certainly are for most respiratory illnesses and flu.