An outbreak of a new strain of Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), first identified in the Hubei Province of China, is causing fears across the globe as people worry about a pandemic of respiratory illness.
Since the first Coronavirus case was identified in China on December 31, 2019, more than 6,060 cases have been confirmed in China (and over 1,000 cases in Wuhan City alone). There are at least 100 known fatalities.
The virus has also spread outside of China. As of January 27, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported five positive cases in the U.S., but more cases are expected.
In response to the outbreak, China has taken drastic quarantine measures, including putting the city of Wuhan under travel restrictions and closing movie theaters and theme parks to halt transmission of the virus across the country. In the United States, the Customs and Border Protection department announced it was conducting temperature screenings of passengers who have traveled from Wuhan, China, within the previous 14 days. Other countries and territories, including Hong Kong and Australia, have issued travel advisories or bans.
Initially the virus was thought to have originated from a large seafood and animal market, which suggested animal-to-human spread, but we now know that humans can spread the virus to other humans.
This new strain of coronavirus could be considered a “cousin” to the 2012 MERS outbreak or the 2003 SARs outbreak. Typical coronavirus symptoms can be very mild but in some cases are severe. Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath and can potentially lead to pneumonia.
For Americans, there is no need to panic unless you’ve been exposed to someone with Coronavirus or recently traveled to or from the affected province of China. At present, there is no vaccine or specific treatment other than providing supportive care for those affected by Coronavirus.
At the same time, the more dangerous threat to Americans is not Coronavirus at all—it is the seasonal flu, which we see every year. Already this 2019–2020 season, there have been 54 pediatric deaths due to flu, according to the CDC.
To help prevent flu infection, all people over 6 months of age should receive a seasonal influenza vaccine. It is not too late to receive the flu vaccine, especially for young kids or older adults (or anyone with a chronic medical condition like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease).
- The Coronavirus started in China, where thousands have been infected and more than 100 have died.
- In the United States, there are five known cases, with more expected.
- There is no reason to become alarmed unless you know you’ve been exposed.
- Even though it’s scary, Coronavirus poses less of a threat than the normal season flu. Get your vaccines!