As you know, there are now more than 4,500 cases of a new respiratory coronavirus in China, with 106 reported deaths. There are 5 confirmed cases in the United States, but all were contracted outside the U.S. Most of the patients who have fallen seriously ill from Coronavirus have had other medical co-morbidities.
This novel (new) coronavirus belongs to a family of viruses that infects both human and animals. Other coronaviruses include MERS and SARS. The new coronavirus now spreading in China is officially known as 2019-nCoV. For the remainder of this article, we'll refer to 2019-nCoV simply as "Coronavirus."
How bad is it?
For context, about 77 times as many people have died from influenza (flu) in the United States alone this year than have died worldwide from Coronavirus. There have been 15 million flu illnesses this season in the United States, with 8,200 deaths, 54 in children.
Nonetheless, given the rapid spread of Coronavirus and the relatively little that is known about it, Coronavirus is considered a public health emergency.
What should I do?
At a minimum, you should:
- Avoid nonessential travel to China
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
If you were in China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical care right away. Before you go to an emergency room, call ahead and let them know about your recent travel and symptoms.
What's the worst case?
Per CDC, "For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV is considered low." Nonetheless, we foresee two primary "worst case scenarios" if the Coronavirus were to spread further.
1) Risk of infection
Assuming you do not travel to China, you are currently at low risk for infection, as no person-to-person transmission has yet occurred in the United States. However, if person-to-person transmission were to occur in the United States, you or your family could get sick.
To protect yourself against infection, in addition to following the basic hygiene guidelines above, you should consider obtaining personal protective equipment.
CDC recommends that healthcare workers treating patients suspected of having Coronavirus wear respiratory protection and eye protection. It would be reasonable to have the same basic equipment on hand for yourself.
We recommend having N95 masks in your home or travel bag for respiratory protection. Although data is mixed, N95 masks may provide a greater level of protection against airborne transmission of disease than plain surgical masks.
2) Risk of quarantine
In an extreme situation, if the virus spreads in the United States, even if you do not get sick, mandatory quarantines could be implemented, similar to those currently seen in China. In this situation, you should be prepared to shelter in place.
Hospitals could be overwhelmed with patients (as expected in a flu pandemic), limiting your ability to obtain routine medical care.
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Is there a treatment?
There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for Coronavirus.
There is a lot we still don't know. We will provide additional updates as the situation develops. You should also refer to the CDC website at www.cdc.gov for additional up-to-date information.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Duration Health | Be prepared to care for yourself when regular medical care is unavailable. Learn more at durationhealth.com/kit