What to Know About the Coronavirus Detected
Chinese scientists have identified a previously unknown type of coronavirus as the cause of a recent pneumonia outbreak in the city of Wuhan, according to state media.
The current situation follows the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (SARS-CoV) outbreak in 2002 and the first detection of the Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012.
Issues found in coronavirus tests fast-tracked by FDA
Today, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported issues with tests designed to detect if someone is infected with the new coronavirus.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a
As part of routine testing, issues were discovered with the tests called a 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel.
“The states identified some inconclusive laboratory results,” she explained. “We are working closely with them to correct the issues.”
Messonnier said that replacement materials would be sent out for states that reported issues.
“Speed is important, but equally or more important in this situation is making sure the laboratory results are correct,” she said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency authorization on Feb. 4 allowing public health labs to use the test that can detect whether someone is infected with the new coronavirus.
This authorization was especially significant for the United States because hospitals and public health departments were in theory able to conduct testing on-site rather than shipping virus samples directly to the CDC.
Until these issues are fixed, local medical officials will still have to send samples to the CDC.
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WHO chief says spreading outside of China may be ‘tip of the iceberg’
The director-general of the WHO warned that the international community should prepare for the spread of the novel coronavirus to accelerate.
“There’ve been some concerning instances of onward 2019nCoV spread from people with no travel history to [China]. The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” tweeted Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO on Feb. 9.
The death toll from the virus is now over 1,100, while total confirmed cases are over 45,000.
Meanwhile, Japan reported 6 more cases among 3,700 passengers and crew on a quarantined cruise ship, bringing infections on the vessel to 69.
“Our guests and crew onboard Diamond Princess are the focus of our entire global organization right now and all of our hearts are with each of them,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president in a statement.
Ghebreyesus emphasized that, “In an evolving public health emergency, all countries must step up efforts to prepare for 2019nCoV’s possible arrival and do their utmost to contain it should it arrive. This means lab capacity for rapid diagnosis, contact tracing and other tools in the public health arsenal.”
However, “dramatic reductions” in the pace of the disease’s spread should begin this month if containment works, said Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity on Sunday, according to AP News.
NIAID director discusses latest developments
The virus is likely to continue spreading in the United States, the CDC said.
The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, discussed the ongoing novel coronavirus epidemic in a livestream video Feb. 6 with Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) editor in chief, Dr. Howard Bauchner.
“One thing is starting to be noticed. It appears that the travel-related cases that are outside of China, that then transmit to other people, it appears that somehow or other not a lot of them are catastrophic infection,” observed Fauci.
Two babies are now the youngest people to have been confirmed infected with the virus according to Fauci.
But Fauci says there’s no way to determine if the infection was passed before or after birth.
“The problem is the postnatal, close contact between a mother and a baby in a viral infection that has an incubation period of as low as 2 and sometimes 1 day. It really becomes impossible to say that it was vertical versus the mother gave it to the baby right at birth,” said Fauci.
He also doesn’t believe that current restrictions on travel will be effective to contain the outbreak, because they “don’t do much to stop the entry of infection when there is a broad, global pandemic, because you can’t restrict travel for the whole world.”
Fauci also told JAMA that the novel coronavirus, unlike other infections, can take a long time after infection to cause severe illness.
“This virus is really acting different. This virus, when it gets in you, it adapts itself so that you can wind up days later getting really serious disease,” emphasized Fauci.
WHO declares emergency
The WHO announced that it’s declaring a public health emergency of international concern based on the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said at a press conference that they were concerned about the virus’ ability to spread outside of China.
“The main resound or the declaration is not because of what is happening but because of what is happening in other continues. The greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker systems… that are ill-prepared to deal with it,” Ghebreyesus said.
Person-to-person transmission has been seen among people in contact with those who have the virus.
The full picture of how easily and sustainably this coronavirus spreads is still unclear.
Person-to-person transmission can happen on a continuum, with some viruses being highly contagious (like measles) and others being less so.
“This is a very serious public health situation,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in an earlier statement.
“Moving forward, we can expect to see more cases, and more cases means more potential for person-to-person spread,” she said.
FDA announces new countermeasures against Wuhan virus
The FDA will take critical actions to advance countermeasures against the new coronavirus, the administration announced on Jan. 27.
“We have a vital mission to protect and promote public health and the FDA is closely collaborating with our domestic and international public health partners to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, in a
The news comes amid a significant increase in reported infections.
Hahn emphasized the FDA will begin employing the full range of the administration’s public health employees to “facilitate the development and availability of investigational medical products to help address this urgent public health situation.”
The FDA has also launched a
This outbreak is affecting healthy and relatively young people as well, according to a
The researchers also found that most cases may be very mild, facilitating a more rapid transmission of the epidemic.
Crucially, only two-thirds of the 41 patients studied had visited the Wuhan seafood market.
The most common symptoms at onset of illness were fever, cough, and muscle pain or fatigue, according to study authors.
“It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing, and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO,” the World Health Organization said in a
No treatment available
According to Sud, human coronaviruses most commonly transmit from an infected person to others via:
- the air by coughing and sneezing
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
“In the United States, people usually get infected with common human coronaviruses in the fall and winter. However, infection can occur at any time of the year,” he said.
“Most people will get infected with one or more of the common human coronaviruses in their lifetime,” he added.
Sud also points out both SARS and MERS outbreaks were from animal-to-human contact, with SARS most likely from contact with bats and MERS from contact with camels.
“Since the organism causing infection is a virus, to date, we don’t have any specific antiviral medications,” Sud said.
The bottom line
Chinese authorities have identified an outbreak of respiratory illness. The CDC has issued a level 3 warning due to the outbreak, notifying travelers should avoid nonessential travel to the area.
So far, 14 people in the United States have been confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus.
Experts emphasize that since a virus causes the illness, there aren’t any treatments available. The infection can only be allowed to run its course.
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