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viral infection

Coronavirus…the new flu from Wuhan, China

viral infection

The virus affecting China and now in the U.S. is new or “novel.”  The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus that is the cause of the outbreak of respiratory illness that was first detected in Wuhan, China.  While there have been over 1000 confirmed cases in China, there have been 80 deaths reported so far.  The genetic sequence of this virus has already been identified and it suggests a likely single, recent emergence from a virus related to bat coronaviruses and the SARS coronavirus.

The symptoms of this novel virus are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure.  Thus far, symptoms have ranged from mild to life-threatening and some infected people are without symptoms.  It is believed the virus is transmitted from person to person by respiratory droplets (sneezing and coughing).

Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960’s and received their name corona as their shape resembles a crown.  They are common throughout the world and 5 types are known to affect humans.  Typically, coronaviruses cause mild or moderate respiratory illness like the common cold with nose and sinus symptoms with cough.  However, outbreaks of coronavirus infection that were more serious occurred in Korea in 2015 and in Saudi Arabia in 2012.  In 2012, this was termed the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and killed 858 people. Another serious coronavirus outbreak occurred in 2003 killing 774 people and was termed SARS (severe acute respiratory Syndrome).

The current virus has now been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, The Republic of Korea, and Vietnam. So far there are 5 cases in the U.S. in travelers from Wuhan that have been confirmed in four states (AZ, CA, IL, WA) as of January 26, 2020.

Currently there is no vaccine for this virus or specific anti-viral medication.  Treatment is using supportive and comfort measures.

As a reminder, CDC (Center for Disease Control) always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Attention patients with asthma:  certain respiratory viruses have been found to trigger asthma attacks including human Rhinovirus (the common cold), RSV (respiratory syncytial virus),  influenza and yes, the coronavirus.

The prevalence of coronavirus associated with asthma attacks was 8.4% in a study by Zheng published in the Journal of Virology in 2018.  Most of the cases of coronavirus were in adults.

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms with fever and lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing) and in the last 14 days before symptom onset, a history of travel from Wuhan City, China – or – close contact with a person who is ill and under investigation for coronavirus 2019, seek evaluation at our local health department where testing (sputum and blood) can be sent to the CDC (the only place currently performing coronavirus testing).

At Family Allergy & Asthma Care of Montana, we want your winter to be healthy and virus free.

This information is solely for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional.

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