Here’s a look at what you need to know about the new virus.
A newly identified coronavirus called 2019-nCoV has been spreading in China, and has now reached multiple other countries. Here’s what you need to know.
Update on Sunday, Feb. 2 (ET):
—A patient at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City is being tested for the novel coronavirus, and if confirmed, the person would be the first NYC case. The individual, who is under 40 years old and recently visited China, is said to be in stable condition, the Wall Street Journal reported.
—About 14,628 individuals globally (primarily in mainland China) have been confirmed to have the new coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins virus dashboard.
—1st death related to the virus outside of China: man in the Philippines.
—1st U.S. case of person-to-person transmission of virus.
— U.S. citizens, permanent residents and immediate family who have visited China’s Hubei province will now undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine.
— U.S. citizens, permanent residents and immediate family who have visited China’s Hubei province will undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine.
—There are now 305 deaths linked to the virus.
— The U.S. issued a “Level 4” travel advisory — the highest level of warning — to not travel to China at all.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people get infected with coronaviruses at one point in their lives, but symptoms are typically mild to moderate. In some cases, the viruses can cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
These viruses are common amongst animals worldwide, but only a handful of them are known to affect humans. Rarely, coronaviruses can evolve and spread from animals to humans. This is what happened with the coronaviruses known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov), both of which are known to cause more severe symptoms.
NUMBER OF CORONAVIRUS CASES
Mainland China: 14,451
Hong Kong: 14
South Korea: 15
United Arab Emirates: 5
Sri Lanka: 1
Where did the new coronavirus come from?
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
Since the virus first popped up in Wuhan in people who had visited a local seafood and animal market (called the Huanan seafood market), officials could only say it likely hopped from an animal to humans. In a new study, however, the researchers compared the 2019-nCoV genetic sequence with those in a library of viral sequences, and found that the most closely related viruses were two coronaviruses that originated in bats; both of those coronaviruses shared 88% of their genetic sequence with that of 2019-nCoV.
Based on these results, the authors said the 2019-nCoV likely originated in bats. However, no bats were sold at the Huanan seafood market, which suggests that another yet-to-be-identified animal acted as a steppingstone of sorts to transmit the virus to humans.
A previous study suggested snakes, which were sold at the Huanan seafood market, as a possible source of 2019-nCoV. However, some experts have criticized the study, saying it’s unclear if coronaviruses can infect snakes.
Does the coronavirus have an official name?
No, neither the virus nor the disease it causes have official names yet. On Jan. 30, WHO proposed calling the disease “2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease,” and the virus “2019-nCoV.” (In these names, the “‘n” stands for novel and “CoV” is for coronavirus.) WHO will need to seek approval for the name from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The final decision on the virus’ official name will be made by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, according to WHO.
In a report published on Jan. 29, researchers in China referred to the disease as novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)–infected pneumonia, or NCIP.
WHO discourages naming new viruses after geographic locations, people, species or classes of animals or foods, according to the organization’s Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases. Rather, WHO encourages use of descriptive terms of a disease, such as “respiratory disease” and “neurologic syndrome,” as well as “severe” or “progressive.” The organization also says that if a pathogen is known, it should be used as part of the disease’s name.
Can the coronavirus spread between people?
(Image credit: Shutterstock)
Yes, the virus is reportedly spreading from person-to-person in many parts of China, and in some other countries, according to the CDC. On Jan. 30, the CDC identified the first case of person-to-person spread in the United States. As of Feb. 2, cases involving individuals who had not recently traveled to China have been confirmed in: the U.S., Thailand, Taiwan, Germany, Vietnam, Japan and France, the Times reported.
In terms of how one would catch the virus, the CDC says that human coronaviruses are most commonly spread between an infected person and others via:
—the air (from viral particles from a cough or sneeze);
—close personal contact (touching or shaking hands);
—an object or surface with viral particles on it (then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands);
—and rarely from fecal contamination.
What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus and how do you treat it?
ymptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. It’s estimated that symptoms may appear as soon as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure, the CDC said. The NEJM study published on Jan. 29 estimated that, on average, people show symptoms about five days after they are infected.
There are no specific treatments for coronavirus infections and most people will recover on their own, according to the CDC. So treatment involves rest and medication to relieve symptoms. A humidifier or hot shower can help to relieve a sore throat and cough. If you are mildly sick, you should drink a lot of fluids and rest but if you are worried about your symptoms, you should see a healthcare provider, they wrote. (This is advice for all coronaviruses, not specifically aimed toward the new virus).
There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, but researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health confirmed they were in preliminary stages of developing one. Officials plan to launch a phase 1 clinical trial of a potential vaccine within the next three months, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a news conference on Jan. 28.
Researchers are also working on gathering samples of the virus to design a therapy that will train patients’ immune cells to detect and destroy the virus, Facui said.
What is being done to stop the spread of the coronavirus?
The Chinese government put Wuhan and many other nearby cities on “lockdown,” meaning people are not allowed in or out of the area, according to The New York Times.
The governments of both Taiwan and Hong Kong have said they would not allow in anyone from the Hubei Province (where Wuhan is located).
Major airports in the U.S. are conducting screenings to try to check for symptoms of the virus. On Jan. 28, CDC officials announced that 15 additional U.S. airports will begin screening travelers for the virus, bringing the total number of airports conducting screening in the U.S. to 20. The CDC also recommends that Americans avoid all nonessential travel to China.
Nearly 200 Americans have been evacuated from Wuhan and will be monitored for 14 days for signs of infection, according to CNN.
The Chinese government has banned the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants and online.
Also, starting Sunday, Feb. 2, U.S. citizens, permanent residents and immediate family who have visited China’s Hubei province will undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine. And “foreign nationals” who have traveled to China in the past 14 days won’t be allowed in the U.S., officials said. If Americans visited any other part of China, they will be screened at airports and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Australia is also barring entry to non-citizens who have recently visited China.
How can people protect themselves and others?
The best way to prevent infection with 2019-nCoV is to avoid being exposed to the virus, according to the CDC. In general, the CDC recommends the following to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If traveling to China, you should avoid contact with sick people, avoid dead or alive animals, animal markets or products that come from animals such as uncooked meat, the CDC said.
People who traveled to China and became sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing within the following two weeks should seek medical care right away, and call ahead to inform medical staff about their recent travel, the CDC said.
Jeanna Bryner, Rachael Rettner, Yasemin Saplakoglu and Nicoletta Lanese contributed reporting.