Facts you should know about the Wuhan coronavirus (2019 novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, COVID-19)

Infection with the Wuhan coronavirus causes respiratory problems.
Infection with the Wuhan coronavirus causes respiratory problems.
  • Wuhan coronavirus is a newly identified and named type of single-stranded, positive-sense RNA coronavirus that likely jumped from infecting only animal species to infecting humans that, in turn, developed person-to-person transmission that results in respiratory problems. The 2019 novel coronavirus is related to SARS and MERS coronaviruses.
  • It is early in the outbreak of this disease, and some of the information will change as more information becomes available and more patient information is obtained.
  • Risk factors for infection with the 2019 novel coronavirus include the following:
    • Recent travel to Wuhan, China, and other places where there is an outbreak
    • Close contact with people who are diagnosed with the disease
    • Close contact with anyone who has visited an outbreak zone like Wuhan
    • Contact with secretions or feces from an infected person
    • Eating or handling wild animals native to China (and other countries)
  • Signs and symptoms of 2019-nCoV infection include flu-like symptoms that worsen to
  • The virus initially spread in an animal species (currently unidentified) and then jumped to humans where it is transferred person to person.
  • There is no antiviral drug or vaccine to treat infected individuals. Treatment is supportive in nature, and it may be necessary for a medical professional to administer treatments in a hospital.
  • Complications may include
  • People may prevent or lower the risk of this viral infection by good hygiene, avoiding contact with infected people, not going into an outbreak area, and by leaving an outbreak zone.
  • It is early in the outbreak of this new disease, so the current approximation of the mortality rate of about 2% may go up or down.
One of the symptoms of Wuhan coronavirus infection is fever.

Wuhan Coronavirus Symptoms & Signs

The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new virus that researchers first identified in Wuhan province, China, in late 2019. It resulted in a number of cases in China, and then the virus spread to other countries, including the U.S.

The Wuhan coronavirus causes symptoms that vary in severity. These can include flu-like symptoms such as

  • fever,
  • cough,
  • difficulty breathing, and
  • shortness of breath.

What is the Wuhan coronavirus (2019 novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, COVID-19)?

The Wuhan coronavirus is a single-stranded, positive-sense RNA coronavirus. It is a new strain (only found and named about 1 month ago) of coronavirus (means crown) that is causing an outbreak of serious respiratory problems in Wuhan, China. Researchers think it originated from infected animals and jumped over to infecting people in a large open seafood/animal market. Also, the virus is capable of person-to-person transmission, spreading to at least to 16 countries in about 1 month. It is related to the SARS and MERS coronaviruses.

What are risk factors for Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infections?

Risk factors for the virus include close contact with someone who has recently visited Wuhan, China; recent travel to Wuhan, China, and other cities experiencing this outbreak; close contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus; and coming in contact with secretions (for example, those produced by sneeze or cough) or feces from an infected person. Some investigators suggest that no wild animals be used for food in China or elsewhere.

What are the signs and symptoms of infection with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Medical researchers estimate that the incubation period varies from 2 days to about 14 days. Symptoms may begin like the flu but go on to develop fever, cough, and shortness of breath that is severe enough to warrant hospitalization in many patients. Although early in this outbreak, Chinese researchers suggest that people who are infected but don't show symptoms (incubation period) may be contagious. This allows the virus to spread more effectively from person to person and makes it more difficult to isolate infected patients.

How does the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

Many coronavirus types infect species of animals that occasionally (or rarely) are able to infect humans. MERS coronavirus is an example where the virus that usually only infected camels became able to infect humans. Wuhan coronavirus is similar as the initially infected people frequented an open-air food market that sold fish and animals, including wild animals. Medical researchers currently do not know the animal species infected, but wild animals are a suspected source. However, the rapid spread of the virus was due to person-to-person contact that has been responsible for the wide outbreak of this infection. Close contact with someone who is infected or with their secretions (for example, cough-generated droplets) or feces is how the virus spreads. Although this virus is contagious, the contagious period of time remains to be determined. Recent findings suggest it may be contagious even in the incubation period when the patient shows no symptoms.

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What are treatment options for Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infections?

Unfortunately, to date, there is no antiviral drug or vaccine to treat this infection. Symptom relief and supportive care (many requiring hospital care) are the current treatment methods. However, early supportive care may reduce the disease severity. If you have been exposed to the virus, put on a mask if one is available and call your doctor. Currently, in the U.S., only the CDC has tests to determine if an individual is infected with the virus, so doctors must safely package blood, swabs, and other specimens and sent them to the CDC.

What are the complications associated with Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infections?

Complications associated with this virus infection include

  • difficulty breathing (may require a breathing machine),
  • high fever,
  • pneumonia,
  • severe cough,
  • organ failure (for example, kidney failure), and
  • death.

How can people prevent infection with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The following are the directions given by the CDC for coronavirus prevention:

  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  4. Stay home when you are sick.
  5. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

In addition, because of the need of hospitalization for many infected people, governments have taken steps to limit the chances to spread infections by isolation techniques such as closing down public events and even preventing public transportation, and closing schools and work places (for example, China is limiting such venues in Wuhan and other close by cities that put about 57 million Chinese citizens in a partial or full lockdown or quarantine mode). The U.S. and other countries are chartering planes to remove their citizens from Wuhan and many surrounding Chinese cities. Several U.S. airports are screening people arriving from high-risk areas.

What is the mortality rate for Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infections?

This outbreak is only about 1 month old, so determination of the mortality rate may change as the disease outbreak continues. For example, if hospitals become unable to give supportive care to patients because of lack of hospital beds due to overcrowding, the mortality rate will likely increase. However, if the outbreak is contained quickly and the hospitals have enough beds available to treat patients, the mortality rate may decrease. However, as of Feb. 24, 2020, there were about 78,811 infected people worldwide with 2,462 deaths, which gives COVID-19 a current mortality rate of about 3.1%. Unfortunately, there are many patients still in need of critical hospital care.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2020
References
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China." Feb. 6, 2020. <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html>.

"Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Global Cases (by Johns Hopkins CSSE)." ReliefWeb.int. Jan. 30, 2020. <https://reliefweb.int/report/world/wuhan-coronavirus-2019-ncov-global-cases-johns-hopkins-csse>.
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