Understanding the Wuhan Coronavirus and its Potential Impact

China is on high-alert because of a new viral illness, which recently made its way to the US through a traveller who arrived in Washington state. The coronavirus can be fatal.

Who fell sick?

The first victims all shopped or worked at a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province. All of them suffered from pneumonia, fever and breathing problems.

Six people have so far succumbed to the virus and hundreds of others have been affected. Some of those who were affected travelled to other parts of China and foreign countries.

What’s the info on the virus?

The virus’ genome has been acquired. Some coronaviruses cause mild cold-like illnessess while others can prove more severe. Remember the SARS infections in China (2003) or MERS in the Middle East (2012)? Both were coronaviruses.

It doesn’t have an official name, as of yet. Some people refer to it as “2019-nCoV” standing for “novel coronavirus” and it was discovered in late 2019.

Initially, public health personnel weren’t sure about its transmission capabilities. It became clear only recently that people are transmitting it to others including health care workers.

Being a relatively new coronavirus, not much is known about it. Apparently, it is less contagious than measles or the like, but it’s still a concern.

Can it get viral in the US?

The likelihood exists. That’s why the CDC is keeping a close watch on its expansion. It was recently announced that incoming passengers from Wuhan would be screened at three airports: San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

The WHO is holding an emergency session on the Wuhan coronavirus tomorrow to decide whether or not its outbreak should be considered a public health emergency.

What should one do?

The CDC issued a Level 2 (of 3) travel alert to practice “enhanced precautions“. If you travel to Wuhan:

  • Avoid contact with the sick, animal markets and animals of all sorts.
  • Frequently wash your hands.
  • Prepare to answer questions upon your return.

Additionally, the CDC notes that “older people and people with underlying health conditions” at greatest risk of severe disease and should preferably reconsider any travel plans to Wuhan.

Expect the CDC to release more info soon.

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