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Novel Coronavirus in China: What you need to know.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that they will be checking passengers arriving to three airports in the US from Wuhan, China for symptoms of this new virus that has caused several infections and a couple of deaths in China.


These three airports are New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport.


And today, Tuesday January 21, 2020 we have the first confirmed case in the US.


So what is this mysterious virus that has the CDC checking arriving passengers at airports?


And do we need to be worried that it has made its way to the US?


So far, this respiratory illness doesn’t seem to be caused by any known pathogens such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, or avian influenza viruses.


This is a cause for concern for health care officials as this may be a novel and not yet identified virus that is infecting people in the area.


What is the Coronavirus?


Coronaviruses are important human and animal pathogens. These viruses have been the cause of community acquired upper respiratory tract infections in adults and probably also play a role in severe respiratory infections in both children and adults.


It isn’t just respiratory issues, some strains of coronaviruses have been known to cause diarrhea in infants and children.


The Coronaviruses are widespread among birds and mammals. Bats are thought to be host to the largest variety of this virus.


Where is it found?


This virus can be found everywhere. Literally, wherever investigators have looked, they have been been able to find it.


In temperate climates, coronavirus respiratory infections occur primarily in the winter, although smaller peaks are sometimes seen in the fall or spring.


However, infections can occur at any time of the year.


The Novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China


This novel coronavirus is thought to be the cause of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China.


As of January 2020, there have been more than 40 confirmed cases in China. Of those infected, some have been very sick with at least one known death related to this viral infection.


The symptoms have been characterized primarily by fever and congestion of both lungs on chest imaging.


The Chinese investigations so far have identified an association with a seafood market where most patients had worked or visited.


The seafood market also sold live rabbits, snakes, and other animals. This facility has now been closed for disinfection.


Travel warnings?


The World Health Organization (WHO) is not recommending special travel restrictions at this time.


However, if you are planning a trip to the region, there is a possibility of exposure to this novel coronavirus.


Understanding of this novel coronavirus is evolving rapidly and new recommendations will likely be made soon.


At this point, reports state that most people caught the virus directly from animals, and the infection does not spread very easily from person to person.


Health care officials are taking a close look at SARS to aid in learning more about this novel virus.


If you recall, in 2003 SARS spread to more than two dozen countries in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.


Worldwide, more than 8,000 people became sick and almost 800 of them died from the viral infection.


In the United States, there were 29 SARS cases and no deaths reported according the CDC.


The difference between this novel virus and SARS is that SARS spread easily from person to person through close contact such as kissing, sharing utensils or talking to someone within 3 feet.


Diagnosis


Since there is no effective treatment for coronavirus infections, establishing the diagnosis is of limited utility in patients suspected of having community-acquired coronavirus infections.

In contrast, diagnosing Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus is critically important for understanding outbreak epidemiology and limiting transmission of infection.


Fortunately we have rapid techniques that can be used to detect coronaviruses from nose swab samples.


These techniques allow for detecting all four of the known human coronavirus strains to cause infections.


Treatment and prevention


There is currently no treatment for coronavirus infections except for supportive care as needed.


Several antivirals medications were used during the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus outbreak, but none of them were effective.


Preventive measures are the same as for most infections, which consist of hand washing and the careful disposal of materials infected with nasal secretions.


It is important to note that several antiseptic and disinfectant solutions used commonly have been shown to be ineffective against coronaviruses.


Take away points


Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus that has infected several adults and the first case has been confirmed in the US.


Fortunately this novel virus does not appear to be as contagious as other similar viral outbreaks.


There is currently no treatment for coronavirus infections except for supportive care as needed.


No specific travel warnings have been issued as of the writing of this blog.


Coronaviruses are found everywhere.

Please remember that medical information provided by us must be considered an educational service only. This blog should not be relied upon as medical judgement and does not replace your physician’s independent judgement. This is NOT medical advice. Please seek the advice of your physician.


Safe Travels.

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