Author: Anna ('20)
Preface: This is an ongoing outbreak, meaning that some of the values, information, and circumstances may change. This piece was written on Jan 30 (and as such all of the numbers, information, & data are based on the information available at that time). But it still felt important to write as well-educated a piece as possible.
TLDR: the CDC says, “the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
By the numbers: (Updated: Feb 4)
→ 20,630 confirmed cases → First detected early December 2019 (~2 months)
→ 20471 of those cases located solely in China → 425 deaths → 632 recoveries
→ 2788 severe cases thought to be currently present in China
→ 7th coronavirus known to infect humans → 11 infections in the US
→ 24 countries with infected → 1 death internationally (within the Philippines)
→ Over 57 million people and 15 cities were placed on full or partial lockdown (mainly, if not all within China)
→ Thought to have ~2% death rate (SARS roughly had a 9.6%)
Context 2019 Winter Flu Season:
→ ~15 million people have gotten the Flu (in US) → 8,200 US deaths
→ World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the flu kills up to 650,000 people per year worldwide
→ Fatality rate .095%
By the science:
→ Coronaviruses: a group of positive-sense single-stranded RNA, enveloped viruses. Most commonly seen to cause disease in mammals and birds, it’s linked to respiratory infections that range from mild to lethal. They are believed to cause a significant percentage of all common colds but are more infamously known for causing pneumonia and bronchitis (either directly - viral pneumonia/bronchitis, or secondary - bacterial pneumonia/bronchitis).
→ The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) informally known as the Wuhan coronavirus, is the current virus spreading throughout China and other countries in the world. It is known as “novel” because it has yet to be named, only having originated in early December (although this timeline is still just a hypothesis). This is the 7th known coronavirus to infect people, thought to act similar to previous outbreaks, viruses, and consequent diseases, like Middle-East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). It is important to note that this virus is thought to be infectious during the incubation stage (before you have classic symptoms) and is a suggestion for why it spread so fast, but this is still unsubstantiated. As well it has been confirmed that human-to-human transmission can occur. The WHO has created the interim term "2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease" to describe the disease caused by the virus until it can be further designated. It's still not clear how deadly the 2019-nCoV will be, but fatality rates are currently lower than both MERS and SARS. Although, experts say that this will change as the outbreak continues.
→ The Outbreak: First detected in Wuhan (city), China, in mid-December 2019, has spread to all provinces in China and to other countries, including Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, France, and the United States. As stated in the numbers, as of Jan 30, there have been 8,235 confirmed cases of infection with 231 deaths, of which 8,124 cases were within China. As of Jan 30, the WHO has officially designated this to be a global health emergency.
→ Transmission: The human-to-human transmission is thought to occur similarly to SARS, MERS, and a variety of pathogens, through the “respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.” The CDC says that the transmission of SARS and MERS has generally occurred between close contact, and the only case of human to human transmission of 2019-nCoV in the US was between a married couple. The estimated basic reproduction number is between 1.4 and 5, with the majority of results below 3.8, meaning that infection of the virus typically leads to between 1.4 and 3.8 new cases. They also stress that various pathogens have different levels of infectivity/contagiousness and that “while the CDC considers this a very serious public health threat… the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
→ Symptoms: “CDC believes at this time that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.” Typical symptoms include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Upper respiratory symptoms (sneezing, runny nose or sore throat) are less frequently noted.
→ Treatment: Since there is no specific treatment for the virus itself, the majority of treatment is on alleviating symptoms and preventing severe infections (ie. pneumonia). Multiple studies and testing are being done to establish the efficacy of existing pneumonia treatments and anti-virals, like protease inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies. Various organizations and institutions have announced work on a vaccine, but it is important to note that a vaccine is not a cure, simply a preventative measure.
→ Origin: It is currently suspected that (live) animal-food markets may have been the origin of this virus (as was similarly thought for SARS) but this is still hotly debated. Such markets are though to be good incubators for new pathogens and viruses. Information from the CDC, described “[the] 2019-nCoV [as] a betacoronavirus, like MERS and SARs, all of which have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.”
Prevention: As always it is still important to be alert & sanitary. The CDC gave the following tips on the best way to prevent the spread of most viruses/diseases:
(Update: Jan 31) Please note within the US: Foreign Nationals that have visited China within the last 14 days are being prevented from entering the United States. While US residents, citizens, and family (who have visited China within the 14) are allowed in but “Measures [sic.] to detect this virus… are being implemented.” This is widely seen to be unprecedented, and is being heavily debated in
→ https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/ 20200130-sitrep-10-ncov.pdf
→ https://www.statnews.com/2020/01/24/coronavirus-infections-no- symptoms-lancet-studies/
→ https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/ 20200204-sitrep-15-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=88fe8ad6_2
→ https://www.hsacoalition.org/issue-analysis/new-2019-ncov-infections-lowers-the -mortality-rate-to-2-using-official-chinese-figures/