According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is a new virus which has been identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness in Wuhan City, Huebei Province in China. The earliest reported cases had a link to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, suggesting an initial animal-to-person spread, however a growing number of subsequent patients have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating that a person-to-person spread may be occurring.1
Since this new strain of coronavirus2 was originally detected on December 31, 2019,3 it has subsequently spread throughout China,4 and is now beginning to be seen in other countries. The first case in the United States5 was confirmed on January 21, 2020 in Snohomish County in Washington state,6 and the CDC continues to monitor the situation and is providing updates on the status of all known cases in the U.S. which are under investigation7.
The situation continues to be closely monitored by public health officials, with active communication taking place amongst the global public health community. Although the CDC considers this virus to be a very serious public health threat, based upon current information the current health risk to the American public is considered to be low at this time.
Map of Countries With Confirmed Cases of COVID-19.
Image Source: CDC
According to the World Health Organization (WHO),8 Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of enveloped viruses which are known to cause illnesses ranging from the common cold, to the more severe illnesses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic,9 meaning they are initially transmitted between animals and people, and these type of viruses are named for the crown-like spikes (or “coronas”) on their surface10 when viewed under an electron microscope. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s, and with the recent identification of COVID-19, there are now seven known strains of human coronaviruses which can infect people.10
Most coronaviruses are not life threatening, and people around the world commonly get infected every year with one of the four known human strains of coronaviruses which cause the common cold.10 The COVID-19 strain is being monitored closely as a potentially more serious strain of human coronavirus similar to the strain identified as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)11, which was responsible for an outbreak which started in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and the strain identified as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)12, which was responsible for an outbreak which started in China in 2003.
For confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, symptoms13 have ranged from infected people with little or no symptoms to infected people becoming severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include one or more of the following:
At this time, CDC believes that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure, but since this strain is still so new and in need of further research, these assumptions are based on observations of how symptoms developed with the MERS-CoV strain.13
In the most serious cases, COVID-19 infection can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.9
While there is currently no vaccine available for COVID-19, CDC is recommending that the public practice everyday preventive actions14 which can help to limit the spread of respiratory viruses, including the following best practices:
Infographic – Reduce Your Risk of Coronavirus
Source: World Health Organization