Here’s what you need to know about it
There is a new coronavirus from China. Thousands of people around the world have now been infected with this virus. Hundreds have died, especially in China. There are numerous cases of this coronavirus now confirmed in the United States.
This specific coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China. As a result, it has been called the Wuhan Coronavirus. It has also infected people in several other countries internationally, including the United States.
This virus is related to the SARS virus, which is also a coronavirus. SARS stands for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.” The SARS virus first came on the scene in 2003 in Asia.
Experts believe the virus originated in animals and has now spread to humans. Even more alarming, the virus has adapted so it can now be spread directly from one human to another. Early reports say that over a dozen hospital workers in China contracted the virus.
Just like its cousin, the SARS virus, the Wuhan causes a type of lung infection (pneumonia). Pneumonia can cause difficulty in breathing and, in some cases, death. The SARS virus pneumonia kills about 10% of the people who get it.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus (MERS) is another coronavirus that is particularly dangerous, killing 40% of those infected. Although estimates may change, the current thought is that the Wuhan Coronavirus is deadly in about 3% of those that get infected.
The coronavirus family includes a large number of viruses that infect animals. In rare cases, some coronaviruses can cross over from other animals to infect humans. Scientists call this process “zoonotic.” The virus that causes the common cold is also a coronavirus.
- An upper respiratory infection similar to a common cold
- Sore throat
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Feeling sick
- Large neck lymph nodes
- Severe cases: difficulty breathing and death
The MERS virus was probably spread from camels to humans. The SARS virus likely came from cats to humans. It is unclear if the Wuhan Coronavirus came from fish or animals.
The viral infection can now be spread human to human from touching the secretions of the infected person. This can be from a cough, a sneeze, or a handshake. The virus can also be transmitted by touching something that the infected person has touched and contaminated and then touching one’s eyes, nose, or mouth.
Caregivers can also contract the virus from touching bodily waste products from an infected person. Scientists believe it can have up to a two-week incubation period.
Most governments, along with the direction of the World Health Organization, are screening people traveling in from high-risk areas. In the U.S., the CDC is supervising the entry of travelers from high-risk areas, and they are allowed only to enter into Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and New York.
It is also recommended that people should avoid traveling to high-risk areas. The Chinese government is actively quarantining different regions and cities in China to block the spread of the virus.
The treatment remains supportive. The majority of cases will resolve on their own.
- Medications for fever and pain
- Humidifier or hot, steamy showers to ease breathing, coughing, and sore throat
- Push fluids, rest and sleep
- If the illness feels worse than a standard cold, see a doctor
MERS and SARS can be especially dangerous for babies of expecting mothers. It stands to reason that the Wuhan virus may also be dangerous for pregnant women.
This is good, common-sense, general advice to prevent getting sick from any virus. Remember the flu kills approximately 4,000 people in the United States, yearly!
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 30 seconds with soap and water, or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Avoid being around high-risk people
- Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
- If you are sick, don’t go to work and infect others
- Regularly disinfect commonly touched objects in your environment
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow, not your hands
There is not a vaccine yet, but scientists are working on it. The best way to prevent getting any virus is to wash hands thoroughly and frequently and avoid touching you face. This is especially important when it comes to preventing the flu. Get your flu shot and wash your hands.
Remember, if you have a cold that seems more severe than a regular cold, contact your doctor for additional instructions.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of biology at Carleton College. He also has a private practice, Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, MN.
He received his MD and Master’s Degree in molecular biology and
genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Minnesota Medicine recognized Dr. Crutchfield as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. Dr. Crutchfield specializes in
skin-of-color and has been selected by physicians and nurses as one of the leading dermatologists in Minnesota for the past 18 years.
He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations and president of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians. He can be reached at CrutchfieldDermatology.com or by calling 651-209-3600.