Two new cases of novel coronavirus in the US have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bringing the total to five across four states.
Recently rumors of an outbreak of coronavirus in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China have flooded news from the world. The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) causes variable severity of respiratory illness.
Initially, at a particular animal market in the region, the authorities believed that viral transmission occurred solely from animal to human. In many later cases, however, people had no access to those markets, making transmission from human to human possible.
To date, thousands of people in China, mainly in Hubei province, have been infected by 2019-nCoV. Experts connected some 80 deaths to 2019-nCoV, all in China.
A increasing number of cases are now occurring in non-China countries, including Taiwan, Australia, Japan, France, Thailand, Vietnam and Nepal.
Discovery of the first U.S. outbreak occurred in Washington state on January 21. Now in Arizona and California the CDC has confirmed two new cases on U.S. soil. Both of those individuals had recently returned from Wuhan, China, and the CDC’s laboratory tests verified they had contracted 2019-nCoV. The CDC states, in the press release:
“CDC is moving towards an proactive response approach for public health and working closely with state and local public health agencies to identify potential cases early on and ensure patients receive the best and most appropriate care.”
Human coronavirus infection is normal, but usually causes nothing more than cold. Coronaviruses are also infectious to a variety of species but these viruses do not appear to spread to humans.
However, an animal coronavirus may in some cases move from animal to human. For example, the viruses that caused the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the 2012 outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
How dangerous is 2019-nCoV?
How virulent 2019-nCoV could be, is not yet clear. The CDC states that “recorded diseases ranged from infected people with little to no symptoms to seriously ill and dying people.”
Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The infection will lead to pneumonia in more serious cases. Symptoms may start as soon as two days after infection, or may take as long as two weeks to develop.
The CDC expects more cases to occur in the US in the days and weeks to come. They note that”[ w]hile this is a serious threat to public health, CDC continues to believe that the immediate risk to the general public in the United States at this time is small.”
They stress the fact that “risk depends on exposure.” The CDC has released recommendations for people who work in healthcare settings and may encounter people with the virus. They also have published specific guidelines for people who have the infection and those they live with.
Unsurprisingly, the CDC recommends it people avoid traveling to the province of Hubei unless that is absolutely necessary. Nonetheless, overall the CDC is calling for calm:
“At this time, no further precautions are required for the general public, beyond the simple daily precautions that should always be taken by everyone. It is still season for flu and respiratory disease, and flu activity is still high and is expected to continue for several weeks. CDC recommends obtaining a flu vaccine, taking daily preventive measures to stop virus spread and taking flu antivirals if necessary.’