What you need to know about coronavirus

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So far, only 2 isolated cases in the U.S.

By Cliff Mehrtens

A new coronavirus has been identified in China and has put health experts on alert across the globe, but it hasn’t posed a major threat in the United States. Details around the respiratory illness are rapidly evolving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Coronaviruses are common infections in humans and animals,” said Dr. David Priest, Novant Health senior vice president, and chief safety and quality officer.

Dr. David Priest

“Occasionally, one moves from animal populations into human populations and is one we haven’t seen before. That’s the case with the one we’re seeing in China.”

The latest coronavirus is called “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV,” according to the CDC. The most common symptoms are a fever, respiratory illness and shortness of breath, Priest said.

The outbreak began in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in China’s Hubei province, and has spread to other countries. Last week, an airline traveler from Wuhan entered the U.S. (in the state of Washington) with the virus. On Jan. 24, a second case of the coronavirus was reported in Chicago, a woman who also had traveled from Wuhan.

“My understanding is that the first patient is clinically doing well,” Priest said. “He sought medical attention and was isolated from other people so the virus wouldn’t spread.”

Priest said the public doesn’t need to take any special precautions. Rather, everyone should follow recommendations health experts regularly advise for prevention.

“During flu season, we always want to make sure we’re washing our hands, covering our mouths when we cough and not going to work or to school when we’re ill,” he said.

All travelers to the U.S. from Wuhan are being routed to one of five airports where they are screened for coronavirus upon arrival: San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD).

“To date, we have a small outbreak of a virus that public health authorities have immediately responded to, immediately diagnosed and immediately started screening for people,” Priest said. “So far, there’s no evidence that this is a widespread issue in the United States, but obviously we take it very seriously and follow it very closely.

“The good news is CDC quickly identified this, isolated the individual and he did the right thing in seeking medical care. There’s been no evidence of ongoing transmission. It’s an ongoing situation, but to date, we don’t have any evidence it’s in any of the areas Novant Health serves.”

For updates on the 2019 novel coronavirus, go to this CDC website.

At Novant Health Infectious Disease Specialists, we focus on preventing and treating communicable diseases present across the world and here at home.

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