You may have heard about a disease outbreak in China that has killed several people, caused quarantines, and has been confirmed in the United States. The sickness is a new coronavirus respiratory illness. Chinese health officials have reported hundreds of cases and severe illness has been reported, including deaths.

Called '2019-nCoV,' it was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, possibly in connection to a fresh food market. Recent reports suggest that the virus may now be spreading by person to person contact The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the first case in the United States was announced on January 21, 2020. The main focus in the US as of Friday (January 24) is on people traveling to and from China

What is a coronavirus?

In the simplest terms, coronavirus is a virus that caused a cold; cough, fever, ECT... This new coronavirus from China seems to be causing much more severe symptoms in people that get infected.

The CDC says that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS.

For this new virus, the CDC says: Signs and symptoms of this illness include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. This novel coronavirus has the potential to cause severe disease and death. Preliminary information suggests older adults and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of severe illness from this virus. Many characteristics of this novel coronavirus and how it may affect people are still unclear.

China's Wuhan Coronavirus Spreads To South Korea
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 24: Passengers walk under a monitor displaying information on the Wuhan coronavirus at SRT train terminal on January 24, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)


How Dangerous is All This for us in Wyoming?

Unfortunately, it's too soon to tell. It looks as if the virus, 2019-nCoV, is being transmitted person-to-person. This could develop into a very serious outbreak. The CDC is monitoring the outbreak in China, as well as working with scientists to learn about this new virus.

Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. It’s not clear yet how easily 2019-nCoV spreads from person-to-person. It’s important to know this in order to better assess the risk posed by this virus. While CDC considers this is a very serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time. Nevertheless, CDC is taking proactive preparedness precautions.

The CDC is doing entry screening of passengers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan, China to five major US airports: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. The CDC is also recommending no non-essential travel to Wuhan, China area.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. CDC will continue to update the public as circumstances warrant.

Health Screenings In Japan For China's Wuhan Pneumonia
NARITA, JAPAN - JANUARY 17: A notice for passengers from Wuhan, China is displayed near a quarantine station at Narita airport on January 17, 2020 in Narita, Japan.. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

What Should You Do Right Now?

Unless you're a frequent international traveler or live with one, us here in Wyoming should continue to keep an eye on developments in China and for any news about the spread of 2019-nCoV. It also continues to be important to practice good illness prevention:

  1. Avoid close contact.
    Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  1. Stay home when you are sick.
    If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
  1. Cover your mouth and nose.
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
  1. Clean your hands.
    Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  1. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  2. Practice other good health habits.
    Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.


So, for right now in Wyoming and the rest of the interior of the US, this situation seems to be a wait and see, while being proactive in general illness prevention.

The situation with regard to 2019-nCoV is still unclear. While severe illness, including illness resulting in a number of deaths, has been reported in China, other patients have had milder illness and been discharged.

There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

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