In early January, an outbreak of a new virus was reported in Wuhan, China. The virus was identified as a strain of the Coronavirus and named 2019-nCoV. Coronavirus is a common form of virus (similar to SARS) often seen among various animal species. However, it is uncommon for the virus to be contracted by humans and only two strains have been reported to do so prior to the 2019-nCoV outbreak.
It is believed that the virus was first transmitted to humans through bats being sold at an open-air market in China. Initially, only those who came into contact with the market contracted the disease, suggesting the virus was only transmittable from livestock to humans. However, as an increasing number of reports were identified among people who did not come into contact with an open-air market, the virus was shown to have become transferable between humans.
As the virus began to spread to more countries the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus a global emergency January 30. The U.S. government followed this declaration with a Level 4 travel advisory and a suspension of entry for anyone traveling into the U.S. from China without U.S. citizenship or proper clearance. Additionally, before U.S. entry is allowed, travelers must be screened for the virus and quarantined for 14 days before being allowed entry back into the country. The U.S. government advises against any travel to mainland China and the surrounding regions until the virus is better contained.
Since China is the outbreak’s epicenter, there has been a misplaced increase of anti-Chinese sentiment as people incorrectly worry anyone of Asian descent carries the virus. These feelings are outright xenophobic and unfounded. Anyone of any racial descent can contract the virus and it should not be associated with a certain group of people.
Although the virus is highly contagious, it is not considered fatal if proper medical treatment is found within days of showing symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Those most at risk of severe disease or death are the elderly and those with pre-existing heart or respiratory problems.
Currently, there are 12 reported cases of Coronavirus in the U.S. All patients are being quarantined and are receiving proper medical treatment. The CDC reports that at this time, the general U.S. public is at a very low risk of contracting the virus. However, if you still are worried the CDC recommends following basic hygiene standards to reduce your risk of contraction, what they recommend for avoiding any communicable illness.
Currently, the virus has been contracted by over 40,500 people throughout 28 countries. Of those infected, over 900 have died but nearly 2,000 have effectively recovered.
Without a vaccine, researchers fear the virus could evolve into a global pandemic. However, doctors and scientists across the world have been working around the clock to create a vaccine to prevent such a situation. Researchers believe clinical trials could begin on the treatment in the next few months providing the virus is not already contained at that point.
As this is a developing situation, please visit the CDC website here for more information regarding the virus. To view an interactive, real-time map tracking the spread of the virus, click here.