by Ori Shacham A new disease believed to originate from bats and other animals has spread to tens of thousands and killed nearly 500 people in China, and is quickly spreading to nearby countries. Late last year, food markets in Wuhan, China were illegally selling wildlife, and experts believe this is how the coronavirus made its way to humans.
While it is hard to tell how easily this virus spreads, most cases have been people who came from Wuhan lately and their family members. This new disease has caught health officials off guard, leaving those infected without a known cure.
“It is unclear how deadly the new virus is,” explains Alex Richardson and Rosalba O’Brien, staff writers for Reuters, “Although severe cases can cause pneumonia and death, there may be many cases of milder disease going undetected.”
Health officials say that there have been more reported cases of this mysterious new illness in China than of SARS–a respiratory infection that spread in China in 2002. SARS had about 5,327 cases, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, the coronavirus has impacted over 20,000 people worldwide, just by Wednesday, February 4th.
Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s and get their name from their crown-like shape. The virus generally spreads the same way other viruses do-through coughing, sneezing, or touching someone who has been infected.
On Friday, the government announced that foreigners who have traveled to China in the last two weeks will be prohibited from entering the United States. “As part of that proclamation, any citizen returning to the U.S. who have been to Hubei province in China in the past 14 days will be under mandatory quarantine for 14 days, which is thought to be the incubation period for the virus,” explains Brunilda Nazario, MD.
So far, there have been eleven confirmed cases in the United States, six of which were in California as of this date. One case was between a husband and his wife in San Benito County. The husband had recently returned from a trip to Wuhan and passed the virus onto his wife.
In another case, a woman from Wuhan came to San Francisco to visit family on January 23rd. “The patient has stayed at home with family since she arrived, except for two occasions when she sought outpatient medical care,” describes nbcbayarea.com. The woman’s family has also been quarantined at home, and are relying on food and necessities brought to them by the health department.
While officials still are not sure how easily the coronavirus spreads, they say that people should wash their hands frequently, and stay home when sick. The virus spreads through the air, and through touch, so it’s important to maintain good hygiene.