A rapidly evolving health story broke out in late December 2019, when a novel illness originating in Wuhan City, China made the news. Reports of the number of infected people (with now called 2019 Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV) swiftly rose, and isolated cases of this new virus have appeared in several countries, including the United States due to international travel. As of today, it has caused over 17,000 cases of confirmed cases and 362 deaths. Eleven cases and no deaths have been reported in the US. Fortunately, public health officials in many countries, including the US, have put measures in place to help prevent further spread of the virus.
With information changing so quickly and every news report about the virus seeming to raise the stakes, you may be wondering how likely it is that you or a loved one will become ill.
It’s convenient to turn to the internet for various links to information online. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well. The purpose of this writing is to provide you with some useful information on what we should know about this virus and what it may mean for you.
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a common cause of colds and other upper respiratory tract infections. These viruses infect certain animals and spread from one animal to another. However, they can also spread to humans, particularly if the virus mutates and becomes wide spread. Chinese authorities reported some cases of viral Pneumonia to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019. Many of the ill people had come in contact with a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, a large city in eastern China. Since then, it has become clear that the virus can spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
Coronavirus can cause flu- like symptoms, including cough, fever and shortness of breath. There are some early reports of non-respiratory symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Many people recover within a few days. However, some people, especially the very young, elderly, or people with weak immune system may develop a more serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
How is it treated?
Scientists are working hard to understand the virus, and Chinese health authorities have posted its full genome in international database. Currently, there are no approved antivirals or vaccines for this particular Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Treatment is only limited to symptom relief and prevention of secondary infection at this time.
Should you worry about catching this virus?
Unless you have been in close contact with an infected person, meaning a traveler from Wuhan City, China who actually has the Coronavirus, you are likely to be safe.
How to prevent this infection?
While we don’t understand the complete particulars of how this virus spreads, Coronavirus can spread through respiratory droplets caused by cough and sneeze from an infected person. Basic infectious disease principles are key to curbing the spread of this virus. Wash your hands regularly, and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your inner elbow. Stay home from school or work if you have a fever. Avoid close contact with people who have signs of a respiratory infection, such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing or shortness of breath.
In the US, the average person is at extremely low risk of catching this virus at this time. In fact, we are much more likely to get the Flu than any other virus this winter. Approximately one in 10 people suffer from Influenza each flu season. According to the CDC, there have already been around 15 million cases of flu in the US this year, leading to numerous hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. And this flu season has not been particularly severe yet, unlike the past few years. Therefore, it’s still not too late to get a flu shot, an easy and highly recommended step (by CDC) toward avoiding the flu. Even if you do get the flu despite having gotten the vaccine, studies show that severe illness, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death are less likely to occur.
The Bottom Line:
Amid the current spread and the complexity of international travel, the number of cases and deaths attributed to Coronavirus will likely continue to climb. However, there is no need to panic. As more information becomes available, public health organizations like CDC and WHO will be sharing key information and strategies to deal with this threat.
While gathering information online may be the easiest initial option, contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of infection such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. Please be skeptical of any fake news, conspiracy theories and unfounded claims on the social media about Coronavirus. Addressing the concerns surrounding 2019-nCoV requires accessible, reliable and updated information from the experts whose mission is to protect public health.
Dr. Tariq M. Vora
Regional Medical Director
Medco ER, Plano & Frisco, Texas
Airplanes have been grounded, flights canceled, travel bans are commonplace and whole cities have come to a standstill. This is the reality for much of China today, due to the widespread outbreak of the novel coronavirus. This virus, labeled a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), has infected 20,000 people and has caused over 400 deaths, according to latest estimates reported by CNN1.
“The coronavirus has raised a lot of concern internationally,” said Medco ER & Urgent Care’s Regional Medical Director, Dr. Tariq Vora. “Thanks to the fast response of healthcare workers, it has been quickly identified and risks have been reduced. However, it is good to educate ourselves and to take preventative measures to retain our health during this outbreak.”
A cousin to well-known animal-borne viruses, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the novel coronavirus has medical researchers around the world scrambling to develop an effective treatment. Most agree that the best treatment at this point is prevention.
What is coronavirus?
First discovered in a group of people with pneumonia symptoms in the city of Wuhan in central China, the coronavirus quickly spread to other people. Patients with this virus can develop a respiratory symptoms similar to pneumonia or bronchitis, which can deteriorate to the point of death. However, the percentage of people affected with the coronavirus resulting in death is very low—approximately 3%—according to current data from WHO2.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms include respiratory concerns such as shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. A fever and cough are also common symptoms of the virus. “In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death,” according to the World Health Organization2.
Who is at risk?
Since the coronavirus was identified by health officials in Wuhan and the genetic makeup was shared internationally, the spread has been reasonably contained. Healthcare workers have the ability to identify which strain of coronavirus or other virus is affecting a patient, which has also helped contain the spread. However, each person should consider his or her own risk factors to determine how to best protect themselves.
The highest risk factor includes travel to China. International travel to any of the 20 other countries reporting cases of coronavirus can also be a risk factor.
How does it spread?
The coronavirus originally came from animals and spread to humans. After that, it has spread from people to people who were in close proximity to each other. Individuals can be exposed to the virus by being near an infected person.
To contain the spread, China has quarantined the city of Wuhan and other cities and has issued a travel ban. The U.S. has been screening arriving international passengers for symptoms at major points of entry. At this time, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers the United States at low risk3.
What can I do to protect myself?
Continue using safe public health practices such as washing your hands frequently and sanitizing them. Avoid touching door handles and handrails, if possible. Sneeze into your elbow. Use a tissue and throw it away immediately.
If you’re sick, stay home. If you have a cough, congestion or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. Any difficulty breathing should receive immediate medical care.
“Just pay attention to how often you are washing your hands and increase that number,” said Dr. Vora. “But most importantly, any time you are having breathing difficulties, come to Medco ER & Urgent Care right away. Don’t wait.”
Finally, since the coronavirus originated from animals, WHO is advising people to thoroughly cook meat and eggs before eating.
What are the treatments?
As suggested by the name, the coronavirus is a virus, so antibiotics aren’t effective in treating it. Currently, research is being conducted worldwide to discover an effective treatment. However, if a patient with coronavirus develops a secondary infection, such as a respiratory infection, that may be able to be treated with antibiotics or other medications.
What should I do if I think I may have the virus?
If you suspect you have a virus or are not feeling well, or if you are suffering from breathing difficulties, come immediately to Medco ER & Urgent Care. As you do, try to limit your exposure to other people. Wear a medical mask if possible and keep your hands washed.
Medco ER & Urgent Care has two facilities where our qualified physicians are ready 24/7 to take excellent care of you.
- In Frisco, come to 5600 Eldorado Parkway across from McDonald’s and Costco. Call us @ 469-392-4100.
- In Plano, visit us at 3960 Legacy Drive on the corner of Legacy and Coit Road. Call us @ 469-392-4000.