So far, all of the outbreak-related deaths and nearly all of the cases have been in China, but the viral illness has appeared in travelers in several other countries. That includes Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the US.
This morning (January
the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a second US case has been identified in Chicago. The case is a woman in her s who had recently traveled to Wuhan. She is said to be doing well and is in stable condition in a local hospital. She is mainly being kept in the hospital for quarantine purposes, officials said. The first US case was identified January 24 in Washington state. The CDC reported this morning that officials have closely monitored people who have had contact with that Washington patient and, so far, none have shown signs of infection. Public health officials in Chicago are now identifying and monitoring people who had contact with the second patient.
The US — and countries around the globe — have stepped up monitoring of travelers from Wuhan. Airline passengers arriving in the US from Wuhan are being funneled to five US airports (San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL), and Chicago (ORD)), where they are undergoing entry screening, looking for fever and other symptoms. In both of the confirmed US cases, the travelers arrived in the US prior to screening and did not have symptoms while traveling. The current rough estimate for the incubation time for the virus — that is, from the time of exposure to the development of symptoms — is two weeks.
The rapid rise in severity and scope of the outbreak has stoked fears of a devastating pandemic and revived memories of the deadly outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2019, which was also caused by a coronavirus. But health officials closely monitoring the epidemiological data have determined that — so far — the outlook is far less dire. On Thursday, an emergency committee convened by the World Health Organization determined that the outbreak does not yet constitute a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern
. ” “Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, ”WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference. “But it has not yet become a global health emergency.” The committee will reconvene in the coming days to reassess, though. And Dr. Tedros (who goes by his first name) added that “it may yet become” a global emergency.
Also, while person-to-person transmission of the virus has been confirmed, WHO officials say that the virus appears to mainly be hopping between people who have had close contact — that is, to family members and medical staff, not, say, people passing by in public settings, such as an airport.
The mild cases and limited transmission so far are hopeful signs that the outbreak can be controlled and the death toll will remain low.
That said, with novel viruses such as this — which are likely jumped from an animal to humans in a live animal market in Wuhan —The virus can continue to evolve, and the situation can change quickly. Infectious unknowns
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause everything from mild to deadly infections in people and a variety of animals. Several coronaviruses already regularly circulate in humans
and cause common respiratory illnesses that are mild to moderate. There are also the notorious members of the family that cause deadly infections, including a strain the causes SARS and one that causes MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.)
Because the new virus can cause relatively mild respiratory infections, it’s possible — if not likely — that cases have gone undetected, particularly as the outbreak has arisen amid cold and flu season. The new virus can cause nondescript respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. Mild cases could easily be mistaken for influenza or a common cold, including ones caused by established coronaviruses. Flu activity is currently high in the US, according to the CDC. So far this season, the agency estimates that flu has caused million to 23 million illnesses, resulting in up to , hospitalizations and , deaths — and that’s in the US alone.
While the WHO and others have come up with preliminary estimates of the transmission rate of the new coronavirus virus, those early estimates may be wildly off given the uncertainty of the case counts and clinical features of the illnesses.
The CDC recommends that people avoid unnecessary travel to Wuhan and adhere to standard hygiene practices, such as washing your hands frequently and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. (Read More