Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) update
Infectious disease experts around the world are learning new information every day about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to track the outbreak and advise global public health experts on how to help contain the spread of the illness.
Daniel Uslan, MD, MBA, clinical chief of infectious diseases at UCLA Health, answers some common questions about the novel coronavirus.
What is novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and how is it spread?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are best known for causing the common cold. They are also responsible for more serious respiratory illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
The CDC says the new coronavirus can be spread from person-to-person with contact within about six feet or closer.
The virus is believed to be spread between people mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory illnesses spread. These drops can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or inhaled into the lungs.
Coronavirus Update Part 2, February 7, 2020
Who is most at risk for coronavirus?
While it can be scary to hear about the new coronavirus, according to public health authorities, the health risk to people in the United States is considered low at this point. For perspective, 15 million people have contracted flu in the U.S. during the current flu season, resulting in 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths.
Risk factors for the coronavirus include travel to Hubei Province, China (including Wuhan) or exposure to patients with confirmed cases. Those traveling to other parts of China, but who have severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, may also be considered for testing.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The most common symptoms of the novel coronavirus are fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more serious cases, the virus can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
The incubation period — the time between exposure and symptoms — is typically five to seven days, although it could be as short as two days and as long as 14 days.
Typically, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are the sickest.
How is coronavirus treated?
Doctors focus on treating the symptoms associated with the illness based on the patient’s specific condition. There is no specific treatment or medicine to cure coronavirus, although experimental antiviral medications have shown promise in preliminary reports. A vaccine is being developed, but, it may not be available for clinical use for some time.
What precautions should people take to reduce risk?
Prevention is similar to recommendations for controlling the spread of the flu: wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve — not your hands — when coughing and sneezing, and avoid close contact with anyone showing signs of a respiratory illness.
If you traveled to Wuhan, China, or have come in contact with someone who has, and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately.
Can you dispel some myths about coronavirus?
There is no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through products shipped from China or any other country. Viruses do not tend to live on surfaces for very long, at most a few hours. Coronavirus germs can be eliminated by using common disinfectants.
While some coronaviruses have been linked to animals such as camels, there is no evidence that household pets such as cats, dogs or birds can transmit the novel coronavirus.
Unless you are in a health care environment or are otherwise in close proximity for extended periods with people who may be carrying the novel coronavirus, there is no need to wear a surgical mask when out in public. In fact, it may be counterproductive.
If you’re sick, what are some steps to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus?
Where can I get more information?
The CDC maintains a novel coronavirus website that is updated regularly. For more information go to: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about
Novel Coronavirus Update Part 1, January 27, 2020