The recent outbreak of the Corona virus from Wuhan, China has everyone pretty scared right now. Echos from previous outbreaks including the Ebola scare of 2014 and even the heightened risk of influenza B during this season have made people stand up and take notice. Though the CDC has decided for now not to declare a state of emergency, there are things to be aware of. First of all, the CDC has declared that all non-essential travel to China should be restricted. So, if you have upcoming travel plans to China that can be delayed, then you should do this.
Corona Virus Outbreak Is Still in the Early Stages
There are, however, already cases in this country including Seattle, Orange County and Los Angeles. If we get familiar with Corona virus, it will help us to understand how to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Corona virus is a common type of virus that is a typical cause of upper respiratory tract infections or the common cold, along with adenovirus. Other more potent subtypes of Corona virus include SARS, and MERS. The Wuhan Corona virus is being dubbed the 2019-nCoV by the CDC. According the CDC it is in the same subfamily, betacoronovirus, as SARS and MERS. These types of viruses typically have their origins in bats. The early reports of this virus indicated that the virus may have originated in a large outdoor seafood market in Wuhan, China. However, Chinese authorities are now reporting sustained person to person spread of the virus. What makes the Wuhan Corona virus so concerning is that it is a subtype of the Corona virus family that has increased virulence and it is easy to spread. So far, there have been 14,000+ cases identified in China. In the United states, there are 8 confirmed cases with another 121 cases pending laboratory results. So far, in the US, there has been 1 reported case of person to person spread. There have been 294 reported deaths worldwide as a consequence of this virus. It is still early in this outbreak so these numbers will likely change dramatically in the coming days and weeks. Asking ourselves what we can do to prevent the spread of this virus may give us some piece of mind.
Now that we know that the corona virus is a common type of virus that comes from a family that may contribute to either mild to severe symptoms, it will help us to learn how we can prevent the spread of this virus. Infected individuals present similarly to many other viral diseases, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The latter symptom being less common among other viral illnesses. The incubation period of the virus, or the time that it takes for symptoms to appear after exposure, is being estimated at 2-14 days by the CDC. This incubation period is similar to what has been reported with MERS viruses. Currently the major risk factors for contracting the 2019-nCoV include recent travel to Wuhan, China and contact with those who have and are displaying symptoms as I have noted above. The overall risk of spread in the United States at this time is very low due to the low number of confirmed cases.
How the Corona Virus Spreads
Corona viruses typically spread via the air when the virus is aerosolized when an infected individual coughs or sneezes and the virus can also spread on contact. So, having infected people wear a mask and having ourselves and our kids wash our hands will be important components of prevention. Taking extra care around those who are immunosuppressed is also important. Common conditions that lead to a lowering of the immune system can include Diabetes, COPD, HIV, being a chronic smoker, taking immunosuppressive medications, and carrying too much weight. Contracting other illnesses, such as the flu can also be stress inducing and make you more susceptible to contracting other illnesses. Some individuals may be more susceptible to illness than others. The CDC is currently recommending that people get their flu shot. Other more preventable situations that can lead to lowering of your immune system include being under chronic stress, drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough sleep. Taking steps to make sure that you are practicing self-care will go a long way towards preventing the spread of Corona virus.
If you are concerned about that you have contracted the 2019-nCoV virus, the CDC is recommending isolation materials for medical professionals who work with you to include mask, goggles, and gowns to be worn by health care professionals. These types of materials are best found in the Emergency Room. ER’s also have the increased resources to better communicate with public health officials about a possible diagnosis of 2019-nCoV. Keep in mind that the risk for spread in the United States at this time is still very low and there is a high prevalence of other conditions such as cold and flu so your risk of having the 2019-nCoV virus is very low.