The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Level 3 Travel Warning for Americans this Thursday due to the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus- a respiratory illness similar to the deadly SARS virus that killed 774 people worldwide.
The C.D.C. announcement came only one day before the second confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States was reported this morning in Chicago. The warning urges all travelers to avoid unnecessary trips to Wuhan, China where health officials report the virus originated. Wuhan officials also recently reported a sharp increase in infected citizens: 916 confirmed cases and 41 deaths linked to the virus to date worldwide.
According to a recent article by CNBC, the majority of cases have been reported in mainland China. Other reported cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand , Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and now the United States.
Global health officials are working together to contain this rapidly expanding outbreak in fear that it could become the next pandemic. Staying informed is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of contracting the coronavirus. Know the facts and spread awareness in your community to keep your loved ones safe.
What We Know About The Virus
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses in humans. The current coronavirus strain, also known as 2019-nCoV, originated in the city of Wuhan, China as early as December 2019.
Coronaviruses typically only result in mild respiratory systems, but two strains in our history have proven to be more deadly: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). It’s unclear how fatal the current coronavirus will become as Chinese officials continue to struggle with containing the fast-moving illness. However, at least 26 fatalities have occurred in approximately 30 days, and all countries remain on high alert.
The C.D.C. is warning all Americans to avoid unnecessary travel to the Wuhan area. Chinese officials have taken significant steps to reduce the spread of the virus outside of the country: Shanghai Disneyland was shut down, a travel lockdown was issued from central China affecting 35 million residents, public transportation services have been suspended to nearby towns, and quarantine areas are currently under construction.
Health Risks and Symptoms
According to the C.D.C, coronaviruses can potentially lead to life-threatening health conditions such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Infants, adults over the age of 65, and individuals with a compromised immune system are the most at risk for the serious effects of the virus.
Symptoms of the coronavirus may only last a few days and can include:
- runny nose;
- sore throat;
- difficulty breathing;
- fever; and
- a general feeling of being unwell.
Individuals at risk of contracting the coronavirus include anyone who has recently visited Wuhan, China, or who has come in contact with an infected traveler. If you believe you are suffering symptoms of the coronavirus or that you might have been exposed to someone with active symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately for guidance.
Coronavirus Activity In The U.S.
The second confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States was announced today by the C.D.C. The patient is a 60-year-old woman currently in isolation at a hospital in the Chicago area. Authorities reported the woman had flown into Chicago from Wuhan on January 13. Because she did not show signs of illness during travel, officials do not believe she spread the virus during this time. She has since reported minimal contact with others upon her return.
The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the U.S. was reported on January 21 in Washington. The patient, a male in his 30’s, had also recently returned from a visit to China. Currently, at least 63 patients across 22 states are under investigation as possible carriers of the coronavirus. Another possible scare of the coronavirus was reported in New Jersey early this morning. Thankfully, medical tests came back negative.
How Travelers Can Protect Themselves
At this time, health officials are unclear as to how the coronavirus is spreading from person-to-person. Anyone who must travel should be taking the following precautions on their trip:
- Avoid contact with people with confirmed illnesses;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the day to kill germs when soap and water are unavailable;
- Do not travel without consulting with your healthcare provider.
- Wear a mask for precaution.
For travelers specifically going to Wuhan, health officials recommend avoiding animal markets, touching animals (alive or dead), and consuming products that come from animals such as uncooked meats.
Any traveler who arrives from Wuhan may be subject to a health screening to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. These screenings may include a questionnaire and a thermometer read. Anyone with active symptoms may be required to undergo additional health assessments.
Staying informed about recent health outbreaks is crucial to keeping you and your family safe. For more information on the coronavirus and updates, review the resources listed below:
- Centers For Disease Control and Prevention: Novel Coronavirus in Wuhan China, About Coronaviruses
- The New York Times: Maps of Where The Coronavirus Has Spread
- The Washington Post: Coronavirus- Live Updates