UPDATE as of January 30, 2020PH confirms first case of the new coronavirus
HERE ARE THE DETAILS:
- Duque: I urge the public to stay calm, remain vigilant at all times. Continue to practice good personal hygiene and adapt healthier lifestyles.
- Duque says there are currently 23 patients under observation for possible case of the new coronavirus. Five have been discharged but are still under strict monitoring.
- Duque: I assure the public that the DOH is on top of this evolving situation. We were able to detect the first confirmed case because of our strong surveillance system, the WHO, and other national agencies
- DOH assures the public that all necessary precautionary measure is being taken to hold the spread of the virus
- DOH made the confirmation after the patient's lab results arrived today from Australia
- The patient arrived from Wuhan, China via Hong Kong in January 21, 2020
- The patient is a 38 year old Chinese
An international outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus has killed at least 18 people and sickened at least 600.
- Malaysia confirms first cases of coronavirus infection
- Vietnam confirms two cases of SARS-like coronavirus
Officials in China have begun closing transportation links from and within Wuhan and other affected cities. The move is a significant escalation in the country’s attempts to contain the virus as millions embarked on holiday travel for the Lunar New Year.
But much is still unknown about the newly identified virus, including how easily it is transmitted and how often it causes severe disease that can lead to death. Many of those who died in China were elderly individuals with pre-existing chronic conditions that may have made them more susceptible to the virus.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we know so far about the virus and the outbreak.
What is a coronavirus?Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona. They can infect both animals and people, and can cause illnesses of the respiratory tract, ranging from the common cold to severe conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, which sickened thousands of people around the world — and killed nearly 800 — during a 2003 outbreak.
Where did the new coronavirus outbreak start?On Jan. 8, The New York Times reported that Chinese researchers had identified a new coronavirus as the pathogen behind a mysterious illness that had sickened 59 people in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China.
Read: China virus toll spikes despite massive lockdown
The cases were linked to workers at a market that sold live fish, animals and birds. The market was later shut down and disinfected.
How many people have been infected, and how many have died?At least 600 people are known to be infected, and at least 18 have died. Most of those infected lived in Wuhan or had recently traveled there. Of those who died, many were older men with pre-existing chronic health problems, like diabetes and high blood pressure, that made them susceptible to complications.
At least 17 of those who died were from Hubei, the Chinese province of which Wuhan is the capital. Of those, the youngest was a 48-year-old woman, and the eldest were two 89-year-old men who died on Saturday and Sunday.
What is the source of the outbreak?Animals are the most likely primary source of the outbreak — but it is still not clear which animals. Past outbreaks of similar illnesses, including SARS, also are believed to have emerged from live animal markets. Another coronavirus, which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is transmitted to humans by camels.
But though the first patients were thought to have contracted the disease at the market, Chinese authorities say the illness can also be transmitted from person to person. A growing number of people, including medical staff caring for patients, have become infected. That makes the virus more difficult to contain.
Has the virus spread to other countries?Most of the victims are in China, but the virus has spread to several other countries, including to five Asian countries — Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore — as well as to the United States, where a man in his 30s who lives outside Seattle was recently found to have the illness. Health officials in Mexico are currently investigating a case involving a man who recently returned from Wuhan.
READ: List of countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus
How is it transmitted?Scientists still don’t know exactly how the virus spreads, but it can be transmitted from person to person, which makes it a bigger risk than if it were transmitted only from animals to humans, said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, a director of the University of Washington MetaCenter for Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health Security.
It is most likely transmitted through coughing and sneezing, as with influenza and other respiratory viruses, said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, chairwoman of the public health committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed 198 confirmed cases in Wuhan. Researchers found that 22 percent had direct exposure to the meat market, and 32 percent had contact with people who had a fever or respiratory disease. But roughly half had neither been to the market nor had contact with anyone who was sick.
Of the 198 infected, 25 have recovered, three have died and 170 are still being treated. Of the 170 being treated, 126 were described as having mild disease, 35 with severe disease and nine were said to be in critical condition. Sixteen health care workers were infected while caring for patients, the report said.
How dangerous is it?Health officials around the world are alarmed, but it’s hard to accurately assess the lethality of a new virus.
“When we get a new infectious disease, we learn about the most severe cases first, the top of the pyramid, as it were,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “As the investigation goes on, we often learn there are less severely infected people, and even people who are infected who don’t get sick at all.”
By comparison, roughly 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu each year in the United States, and about 35,000 people die.
ALSO READ: Doctor at hospital in China's Hubei province dies from coronavirus
But while some scientists say the virus appears to be less severe than other coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, it is not clear whether Chinese authorities have been fully transparent about the number of infections or the number of deaths, or even whether these figures are being carefully tracked.
“The information we know is changing rapidly,” said Dr. Vaishampayan, of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “Whenever a new virus comes out, it takes a while to learn about it. There are going to be a lot of changes.”
What treatment is available?No drugs are approved for the Wuhan coronavirus. The main treatment is supportive care, including making sure the patient is getting enough oxygen, and using a ventilator to push air into the lungs if necessary, Dr. Vaishampayan said.
Patients should rest and drink plenty of fluids “while the immune system does its jobs and heals itself,” she said.
No drugs have been approved for any coronavirus diseases, though an antiviral medication called remdesivir appears to be effective in animals.
READ: With Wuhan virus genetic code in hand, scientists begin work on a vaccine
What are health authorities doing to contain the virus?Chinese authorities closed off Wuhan on Thursday, canceling planes and trains out of the city of 11 million on the eve of a major holiday in China, and suspending bus, subway and ferry service within the city.
The restrictions are to be expanded to nearby cities, including Huanggang, a city of seven million about 30 miles east of Wuhan. The authorities have also shut rail stations in the nearby city of Ezhou and restricted travel in two other smaller cities, Chibi and Zhejiang.
Large public gatherings and performances are also banned in Wuhan, and the government announced that all residents were required to wear masks in public to help prevent the disease's spread.
Governments around the world have been screening passengers from Wuhan at ports of entry for signs of illness. North Korea temporarily barred foreign tourists, most of whom come from China. The World Health Organization is weighing declaration of an international emergency.
What are the symptoms of infection?Symptoms of infection include fever, severe cough and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. The illness causes lung lesions and pneumonia. Milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, making detection difficult. The incubation period — the time from exposure to the onset of symptoms — is believed to be about two weeks.
I’m traveling to China. What can I do to protect myself?Dr. Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that travelers to China should “absolutely” avoid live animal markets, and keep their distance from animals in rural areas as well. He reiterated that travelers should practice “good hand hygiene” — washing hands frequently and avoiding touching their faces — and that they should maintain a distance from anyone who is coughing and sneezing.
Travelers should monitor their health upon return. If a cough or fever develops, call health providers before going in, so they prepare and put protective measures in place.
Should I wear a mask?If you have a respiratory infection, wearing a mask helps protect the people around you from illness by reducing the risk of spreading the infection, experts say. Wearing a surgical mask may somewhat protect you from infection in a crowd if there is an outbreak, but, generally, surgical masks are not closefitting enough to filter all the air you are breathing in.
Experts say you are better off washing your hands frequently throughout the day.
At the moment, the risk of infection with the new coronavirus in the United States — where there is only one confirmed case so far — “is way too low to start wearing a face mask,” Dr. Rabinowitz said. Even in Washington State, he said, “The risk is very, very low to the general public.”