Q: What is the Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in humans, mammals and birds. In humans, these viruses cause respiratory infections which are typically mild and include the common cold. However, rarer forms such as SARS, MERS and the new novel Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the virus causing this latest outbreak, can cause serious respiratory illnesses, some of which can be fatal.
2019-nCoV originated from a live food market in Wuhan city in Hubei province, China. Originally the transmission was animal to human but now has become human to human spread.
Q: Where has the disease spread to?
As of February 4, 2020, there are 20,680 reported cases globally. Of these, 20,486 cases are in mainland China. The other 194 cases have spread to 26 countries. Currently in the US there have been 11 cases, 2 of which have been the result of an infection that spread locally from close contact with someone who had traveled from Wuhan.
Q: Where are the cases in the US?
There have so far been 11 confirmed cases in the US in California, Washington, Illinois and Massachusetts. There have been 2 cases of person-to-person transmission in the USA from close contact with an infected person who had traveled from China. Those who have been in contact with these people are being screened for infection. There have been no deaths in the USA. At the moment, the risk of acquiring an infection with 2019-nCoV in the US is extremely low. Outside of avoiding contact with a sick person who has recently traveled from China, there are no special precautions at this time.
Q: What are the symptoms of the Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
2019-nCoV infections range from people with little or no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. If someone is going to become ill, it is most likely to occur within 2 to 14 days after exposure.
Q: How is it being transmitted?
Initially it was thought to be transmitted by close contact with infected live animals, e.g., bats. While we are still learning about how 2019-nCoV spreads, it appears to be similar to other coronaviruses that are transmitted by close contact (about 6 feet) with an infected person. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It’s currently unclear if a person can get 2019-nCoV by touching a surface or an object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This type of transmission has real potential and hence, a need for handwashing.
Q: What should I do to not prevent becoming infected?
If traveling to China, the following precautions will greatly reduce the potential for exposure to the virus:
- Avoid contact with obviously sick people.
- Do not touch any animals and avoid local food markets.
- Only eat food that is fully cooked.
- Practice good hygiene – wash your hands frequently with soap & hot water or a hand sanitizer.
- Seek medical advice if a respiratory illness is evident within 2 weeks of visiting China.
The risks of being exposed outside of China are extremely low but it is always good to practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap & hot water or a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Q: Are masks effective at protecting from acquiring 2019-nCoV?
The CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public. In addition, the lose fitting ‘surgical’ masks have limited effectiveness. The N95 masks worn by healthcare professionals do offer some protection but they need to be fitted and worn properly.
Q: Is there treatment for 2019-nCoV?
There is no specific antiviral treatment for 2019-nCoV infection. However, doctors are trying a combination of flu and HIV medications to treat severe cases with some success.
There is no vaccine for this virus. While work has started to develop a vaccine, it is likely to take a year or much longer to develop an effective vaccine and scale up manufacturing.
Q: What should I do if I become ill during or after a trip to China?
If you become ill during or after travel to China, especially if it is with a fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, you should seek immediate medical advice.
Q: Can I still travel to China?
The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. In addition, many airlines are stopping flights to China making travel there difficult. There are no coronavirus related travel restrictions to any other countries.