2019 mCoV is China’s newest flu-like virus. It is a coronavirus with symptoms (runny nose, cough, sore throat, and fever) related to the common cold, influenza, or pneumonia. Coronaviruses are viruses that infect people and animals.
Forty-eight cases have been reported in China (45), Japan (1), and Thailand (2). Two deaths have been reported. Initial indications are that it does not spread from human to human easily.
The Chinese and other health authorities indicate that this current virus is not as dangerous as the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic that killed nearly 800 people, sickened approximately 8100 in more than two dozen countries. The SARS virus was transmitted from human to human. The current virus appears to be from animals to humans.
Effective today (January 17, 2020), incoming passengers from Wuhan, China, to the United States will be screened for respiratory symptoms and fever. Those with symptoms will be held for further testing. The primary symptoms of this current virus are fever, malaise, myalgia, headache, diarrhea, and shivering.
This virus, like many others originating in China, appears to affect the elderly and immunosuppressed patients. The incubation time is approximately two weeks from the initial infection. Severe cases evolve rapidly and require hospitalization.
The 2003 epidemic in China has many fearful of a repeat. China has had several flu-like outbreaks over the past twenty years, but nothing as dangerous as the 2003 epidemic. Fifty-nine people have already been affected in the city of Wuhan. China Central Television has reported positive test results in fifteen of those who fell ill. One-hundred-sixty-three people who were in close contact with these patients are being monitored.
The 2019 mCoV virus needs more study to understand its threat to the population. In 2003, China was reluctant to tell the world of the outbreak of SARS. Today, the Chinese government is upfront about the discovery and tracking of this virus. No travel restrictions have been implemented between China and other countries yet.
The lessons learned by China have made them more capable of handling new viral outbreaks. It will still be a while longer before effective treatments, and preventive measures can be used. Current studies in China have ruled out SARS and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), and related influenza and adenoviruses that cause pneumonia.
Is there reason to worry about the spread of this virus to the United States and other countries? Of course, there is. The ease of international travel with no early symptoms can allow transport of this virus to any country with direct connections to China.
Is it a serious health threat today? Probably not. Health officials in the United States and China are proactively seeking to control the spread and intensity of this virus in human patients.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is working at airports with health officials to screen travelers in southeast Asian countries in preparation for Chinese Lunar New Year (January 25th).
A robust immune system is your best defense against any disease. Practical actions can reduce your risk of infection. Cover your mouth or wear a mask if you have a cough. Wash your hands often. Avoid large crowds. And, visit your doctor early if you have flu-like symptoms.