How Much of a Concern Is the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Overview of the Coronavirus
During a season where many people get sick with the flu, the coronavirus adds to the health concerns as it has spread across not only China, but many other nations as well.
This virus originated in China, and it is believed to be caused by people eating meat infected by rodents or bats. The World Health Organization will continue to meet regularly and seek solutions to eliminate this virus.
This is a difficult disease to diagnose as the primary symptoms are fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough and a headache—symptoms that could mean a cold or the flu rather than the coronavirus. There is currently no specific treatment for the coronavirus.
There are four subtypes of the coronavirus: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. The coronaviruses can cause a range of respiratory illnesses that include the common cold, the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). While the return of SARS has been ruled out at this time, there is no answer as to the cause of pneumonia for some patients.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of pneumonia are mainly fever, with a number of patients having difficulty breathing, and chest radiographs showing invasive lesions of both lungs.
Who Has Been Affected?
At this time, the virus has been most active in Wuhan, China and over 35 million people are restricted from travel. China is also building a 1000-bed hospital, specifically to treat people with this virus. The World Health Organization stated that millions of people will be impacted by the restrictions of China’s actions. As of February 17, 2020, there have been more than 70,000 people cases and just under 1,772 deaths in China. Abroad, there have been 794 confirmed cases in 25 countries, with 3 reported deaths.
The Chinese government has quarantined Wuhan, which they consider to be the epicenter of the outbreak. They have also restricted travel to additional regions of China and have suspended public transportation. Beijing has also cancelled some major public events as well. This included events for the Lunar New Year celebrations.
What We Know (and Don't Know) About the Deadly Coronavirus Outbreak
How the Coronavirus Spreads
The coronavirus is spread through mainly through contact with an infected person. It can happen on public transportation, in the grocery story or even visiting with a friend. Symptoms may take up to a week to appear.
This virus is spread the following ways:
- By being around someone coughing and sneezing
- Having close, personal contact, which may be shaking hands or just touching someone
- Touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touching your mouth, eyes or nose before hand washing
- Fecal contamination, though rare, may be a cause
We cannot emphasize the importance of hand-washing. If you have been out anywhere, wash your hands the minute you get home.
The good news is household disinfectants will kill the coronavirus. Even room temperature kills this virus. Carpeting, however, can protect the virus, allowing it to survive for up to seven weeks. This virus is hard to contain as it spreads so easily from one person to another.
Prevention Efforts in the US
The major point of prevention is at airports, where passengers are being evaluated if they are found to be ill. Passengers arriving in Boston and in Chicago have been evaluated but found to be healthy.
The CDC has several plans in place to help prevent the spread of this virus, and these include:
- Clinicians were notified on January 8, 2020 to be on the alert for respiratory symptoms, particularly if a person has recently traveled to Wuhan, China.
- They are developing guidance for these clinicians for testing and management of the coronavirus, along with home care guidance.
- They are working to develop a diagnostic test that will detect the infection much faster. Specimens are currently only being tested at the CDC, but the CDC plans to share these tests with domestic and international clinicians in the near future.
- “On January 17, 2020, CDC began implementing public health entry screening at San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports. This week CDC will add entry health screening at two more airports – Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD).”
- The CDC has also activated its Emergency Operations Center so they will be better able to provide ongoing support to the coronavirus response.
- “CDC also is sequencing the entire genome of the virus from the first reported case in the United States and plans to upload the sequence to GenBank and GISAID when completed.”
The World Health Organization may declare a Global Health Crisis if this virus is not contained.
There is a large family of coronaviruses. Some of these viruses cause respiratory illness in human beings, but other viruses circulate among animals, including cats, camels and bats. On rare occasions, these animal viruses can evolve and spread to humans. This has been seen before with MERS and SARS.
Dr. Mehmat Oz also pointed out something very concerning. If a virus can evolve from animals to people, then, can a virus evolve from people and affect animals? If that happens, could our meat supplies become contaminated with the virus?
World Health Organization Says Coronavirus Is Not Yet a Global Health Emergency
The coronavirus is very serious as it spreads easily from person to person. This virus could easily become a global threat in many ways. For example, if some of the large homeless population in CA is infected the result could be disastrous.
We can try to prevent transmission if we cover our mouths when we cough, wash our hands frequently and stay away from others if we have cold or flu symptoms.
- Center for Disease Control. (6 Feb 2020). About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- Center for Disease Control. (4 Feb 2020). Novel Coronavirus in China.
- Center for Disease Control (16 Feb 2020). 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Situation Summary.
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. (3 Sep 2019). Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
- World Health Organization. (17 Feb 2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Situation Report—28.
- World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
- World Health Organization. (2020). WHO advice for international travel and trade in relation to the outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new coronavirus in China.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
© 2020 Pamela Oglesby