COVID-19 Hype or Hazard

Hopefully you are concerned, but aren’t panicking about the new coronavirus that is all over the news right now.

Breaking News: we have seen community spread in the US, at least nine 41 deaths, and more cases in more states. (see below)

What do you think of the news of the 2019 novel coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)?

Experts say don't panic about the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Are you ready to put on a mask, never leave your home, or just wait and see what happens?

COVID-19 Hype or Hazard

Hopefully you are concerned, but aren’t panicking and want to wait and see what happens over the next few days, weeks, and months.

So what’s going on?

A new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in Wuhan, China and it is spreading, killing some people.

Why is this a concern?

While there are coronaviruses that are very common, even causing many cases of the common cold, there are others that are much more serious.

Seasonal coronavirus are very common during cold and flu season.
Seasonal coronavirus are very common during cold and flu season.

These include the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS.

A worldwide outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by SARS-CoV caused 8,098 cases and 774 deaths in 2002-03. It also started in China.

MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has been causing cases and deaths since 2012.

What’s Next With COVID-19?

Why are experts concerned about SARS-CoV-2?

Check for Travel Alerts and Warnings before your next trip.
Check for Travel Alerts and Warnings before your next trip.

Mostly because of past experiences with SARS and MERS.

There is also the fact that there is no treatment or vaccine for 2019-nCoV.

Coronavirus that shows up on those large respiratory panels that some health providers do is seasonal coronavirus = the common cold.
Coronavirus that shows up on those large respiratory panels that some health providers do is seasonal coronavirus = the common cold.

And no, your doctor won’t be able to routinely test you for SARS-CoV-2. Testing can be done for those who are high risk, but it still involves sending the specimens to a lab at your local or state health department or the CDC.

That shouldn’t put you into panic mode though…

“Two cases of 2019-nCoV have been reported in the United States. Both patients had recently returned from Wuhan, China. More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Unless you have recently traveled to Wuhan, China an area where there is a COVID-19 outbreak or have had close contract with someone who traveled to an area with a lot of cases while they were sick, then you likely aren’t at much risk to get sick with this virus.

“For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

It is certainly not something to ignore though.

Since first being detected in Wuhan, China on December 29, 2019, cases have spread to 28 41 46 64 72 134 other countries.

“More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States.”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

Most experts expect SARS-CoV-2 to become a pandemic, but that still shouldn’t put you into panic mode…

Experts are also working to learn more so that we know:

  • the original source of the virus – is it the animal markets in Wuhan, China?
  • the incubation period – it seems to be 1 to 14 days
  • how contagious the virus can be and how it spreads – close contact
  • how serious are the complications of infection or how deadly is this virus – so far, “reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death,” but the latest worldwide mortality rate of 1.4 to 3.4% is much higher than seasonal flu
  • can the virus be contained – this seems unlikely…

We got one answer recently, as it seems that people with the virus are contagious before they have symptoms.

What’s next?

Don’t panic. Plan ahead.

Stay up to date on SARS-CoV-2 information and call your health care provider if you have flu-like symptoms and recently traveled to Wuhan, China or had contact with someone who is under investigation for COVID-19.

“Limited reports of children with COVID-19 in China have described cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) have been reported in at least one child with COVID-19. These limited reports suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms, and though severe complications (e.g., acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon.”

CDC on Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) and Children

And even if you are starting to get nervous, at least you don’t have to worry too much about your kids. So far, there is no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19 and there are reports that they actually get milder symptoms!

Lastly, if you haven’t yet, be sure to get a flu vaccine.

Affected geographic areas include China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, and Japan.
As we see community spread in more areas, the criteria to guide evaluation of PUI for COVID-19 continues to loosen up.

If you are going to develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness during cold and flu season in the United States, especially if you haven’t traveled to a high risk area, then it is probably the flu, not the new coronavirus…

More on COVID-19 Hype or Hazard

Author: Vincent Iannelli, MD

Vincent Iannelli, MD