News Brief: First U.S. Case of Novel Coronavirus Confirmed

On Jan. 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the first confirmed U.S. case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This particular coronavirus is associated with an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and is responsible for hundreds of illnesses and 17 deaths in China.

The outbreak of 2019-nCoV is relatively new, and public health officials are investigating the new coronavirus, but it is spreading rapidly. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) first reported the discovery of the 2019-nVoC just a few week ago on Jan. 9, 2020.

The CDC states that this outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation, citing that it will provide updates as they become available. Countries with confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV include China, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the United States. As of now, only one known case has been confirmed in the United States.

What is a coronavirus?

According to the CDC, coronaviruses are common in animal species, and most don’t affect humans. As of now, only seven different coronaviruses are known to infect humans. Common coronaviruses typically cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness, and those affected exhibit cold-like symptoms.

However, the 2019-nCoV, as well as two other human coronaviruses, have caused severe symptoms. In 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak caused severe illness. Nearly 4 out of 10 people who contracted MERS-CoV died. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which was first reported in Asia in 2003, spread to two dozen countries, infected 8,098 people and caused 774 deaths before it was contained. In the case of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, officials believe that the virus was spread via person-to-person contact with respiratory pathogens (e.g., through sneezing and coughing).

In each case of these severe coronaviruses, the outbreaks required comprehensive response from public health organizations. Officials believe that the 2019-nCoV outbreak will require the same. However, public health officials stress that this situation is still evolving, and there’s much that is still unknown.

What’s next?

The CDC believes there is little risk to the general U.S. public. More information will be provided by the WHO and the CDC as it becomes available. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary.

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