Whether you feel like it might be just the common cold or something more it’s best to be prepared especially as the respiratory disease called Coronavirus seems to be taking its toll from Coast to Coast, and around the world.
But rest assured the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is responding to an outbreak of the disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in almost 70 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”), according to a CDC news release.
On Jan. 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). On Jan. 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19, according to the CDC news release.
What is It
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir, the release said.
Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, including in some parts of the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed. Learn what is known about the spread of this newly emerged coronaviruses.
The Situation in the U.S. (as of March 3, according to the CDC):
- Imported cases of COVID-19 in travelers have been detected in the U.S.
- Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 was first reported among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan.
- During the week of Feb. 23, CDC reported community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in California (in two places), Oregon and Washington. Community spread in Washington resulted in the first death in the United States from COVID-19, as well as the first reported case of COVID-19 in a health care worker, and the first potential outbreak in a long-term care facility.
Both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV have been known to cause severe illness in people. The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.
Learn more about the symptoms associated with COVID-19.
There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.
CDC has been proactively preparing for the introduction of 2019-nCoV in the U.S. for weeks, including:
- First alerting clinicians on Jan. 8 to be on the look-out for patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan, China.
- Developing guidance for preventing 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from spreading to others in homes and communities.
- Developing guidance for clinicians for testing and management of 2019-nCoV, as well as guidance for infection control of patients, hospitalized or being evaluated by a health care provider.
It is likely there will be more cases of 2019-nCoV reported in the U.S. in the coming days and weeks, including more person-to-person spread. CDC will continue to update the public as we learn more about this coronavirus. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus, the CDC release stated.
CDC deems the immediate risk from this virus to the general public to be low. However, the risk is dependent on exposure, and people who are in contact with people with 2019-nCoV are likely to be at greater risk of infection and should take the precautions outlined in CDC’s guidance for preventing spread in homes and communities, the release also stated.
For the general public, no additional precautions are recommended at this time beyond the simple daily precautions that everyone should always take. It is currently flu and respiratory disease season, and CDC recommends getting vaccinated, taking everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed. Right now, CDC said it recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China.
- Washing your hands often;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth;
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
- If you are sick, stay home and keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too;
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then wash your hands;
- Comply with travel advisories issued by the CDC.
- Stay home if you are sick, and see your doctor if you need relief from your symptoms;
- If you have concerns about coronavirus – particularly if you have traveled internationally or come into contact with someone who has – contact your doctor; and