Health officials are keeping a close eye on a newly discovered coronavirus which is believed to have originated in China last month and has now made its way to the United States. The new virus has been named 2019-nCoV and was previously unknown to affect humans.
When and How Did it Start?
The outbreak started in December of 2019 And its epicenter is thought to be Wuhan, a city of 11 million residents in Central China. Officials believe it was initially transmitted from an animal to a human at a seafood market in Wuhan, or that could have also come from wild game sold. It soon became apparent that the virus could be transmitted from human-to-human as well, particularly for those in close contact with the sufferer.
How Many Cases are There?
In the last four weeks, more than 470 residents have been diagnosed with the new virus. Another 1,000 people are suspected to have the virus and are under observation.
There are 30 or so cases in other Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. There are a handful of cases in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan. And now, one case in the United States.
As of January 22, there has been a total of seventeen deaths.
What are Authorities Doing to Prevent the Virus from Spreading?
Many Chinese travel abroad to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which is January 25, with far-off family and friends. The travel rush is expected to spread the disease to other countries.
In response, international airports are increasing screening for passengers who are exhibiting symptoms associated with the 2019-nCoV. On January 18, three major US airports—San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy Airport—began screening all travelers arriving from Wuhan.
Showing their commitment to minimizing risks locally and abroad, the local Wuhan government announced on January 22 that all outbound transportation from Wuhan, including airports, bus, subway, ferry and long-distant passenger transportation, is suspended until further notice. The government also canceled all public activities planned during the Chinese New Year holiday week and have asked visitors to avoid coming to Wuhan.
How Did it Get to the United States?
There has only been one case in the United States so far. The unnamed man, a US citizen, traveled to Washington State from the Wuhan region during the week of January 14. Though asymptomatic when he landed, he developed flu-like symptoms within a few days. After sharing his travel history with doctors, he was tested for 2019-nCoV. Health officials say the man was hospitalized on Sunday. The 2019-nCoV diagnosis was confirmed on Monday.
The patient is “doing well,” and is “clinically not ill,” officials added.
What are the Symptoms of the Wuhan Coronavirus?
2019-nCoV can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness similar to a common cold. Symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, a headache and possibly a fever, which can last for a couple of days. More serious symptoms can include tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.
For those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young, there's a chance the virus could cause a lower, and much more serious, respiratory tract illness like pneumonia or bronchitis.
How Do You Protect Yourself?
According to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, of the World Health Organization’s emerging diseases unit, it is important to keep up basic hand and respiratory hygiene, including washing your hands with soap and water and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue.
“We do expect additional cases in the U.S. and globally,” adds Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. She stresses that the virus poses a “low risk” to the American public and is unlikely to spread broadly.
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