Coronavirus: What to know about the outbreak

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Jan. 24, 2020—A Washington state man is the first confirmed case of novel (new) coronavirus to have landed in the U.S. He came to the U.S. from Wuhan City in China, where the outbreak apparently started. And a second patient has now been confirmed in Chicago. 

Dozens of people have died and hundreds have been sickened in China by the virus, which may be linked to a large seafood and wild animal market in Wuhan. Several people in Japan, Thailand and South Korea who had recently traveled to Wuhan City have also become ill.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses encompass a large family of viruses. Only some of them cause illness in people. Others infect only animals, such as camels, cats and bats. Rarely do animal coronaviruses evolve to infect people and then spread from person to person. This current coronavirus (dubbed 2019-nCoV) appears to have jumped the species barrier and then spread among people in at least a limited way.

Coronaviruses are respiratory illnesses. Some cause mild, cold-like symptoms; others can lead to pneumonia. There is no vaccine or cure for 2019-nCoV. Care is focused on treating the symptoms.

What to watch for

Symptoms of 2019-nCoV include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be most at risk.

Anyone who has these symptoms and traveled to Wuhan City within 14 days of when they started—or has had contact with someone who may have 2019-nCoV—should call their doctor. Let them know when you call that you may have been exposed to the virus. And avoid contact with others in the meantime.

Since Jan. 17, travelers from Wuhan to the United States have been being screened for symptoms at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, and screening will begin this week for these travelers at airports in Atlanta and Chicago.

If you have travel plans

The outbreak is occurring against the backdrop of the Chinese New Year, a time of increased travel to China. Chinese authorities have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding nonessential travel to Wuhan.

Travelers already in Wuhan should avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets and contact with sick people. They should also wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Still, CDC believes the risk from 2019-nCoV to the American public is low.

To read the latest on the outbreak and advice on traveling, visit CDC’s situation summary page.

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