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Experts in public health have long warned that, when it comes to global pandemics, the question to ask isn’t whether another one is possible – it’s when the next global pandemic will happen. The notion that a highly lethal global pandemic is inevitable has become more mainstream in recent years, and many have wondered if the ongoing Chinese coronavirus outbreak could be that dreaded disease.
Not long after coronavirus was first reported in China, the first U.S. case was detected. You thus might be wondering whether the U.S. should be concerned about coronavirus. Here’s everything you should know about coronavirus and the U.S.
What is coronavirus?
The coronavirus family of diseases can cause symptoms as mild as those of the common cold or as severe as those of an intense flu. The coronavirus of current concern is, for now, named 2019-nCoV. This name is scientific and assigned by public health authorities, and as more is learned about the disease, it may be given a name that more aptly describes its symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The current strain of coronavirus often causes flu-like symptoms. Beyond these symptoms, it can also cause respiratory issues. Advanced cases can, as with the flu, kill people.
How deadly is coronavirus?
China has thus far reported just under 600 cases of 2019-nCoV. So far, only 17 infected patients have died, so in its current state, 2019-nCoV is not especially deadly.
Where have cases been reported?
China has reported the majority of 2019-nCoV cases. However, the disease has reached Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. In each of those countries, only one person has been infected, and no patients have died.
How did the current coronavirus outbreak start?
Chinese officials believe the current coronavirus outbreak began in the city of Wuhan, where it was transmitted from an animal source to a human at a Chinese wet market. The disease has quickly moved past its animal-to-human origins and become transmissible between humans. Its animal-to-human transmission and subsequent contagiousness among humans resemble how the SARS outbreak of the 2000s is often said to have originated (there still remain many unanswered questions about that outbreak).
How are Chinese authorities containing coronavirus?
There is not yet a vaccine to counter 2019-nCoV, so Chinese authorities have quarantined Wuhan. All travel in and out of the city is suspended, with rare exceptions. Airports outside of China have begun screening passengers arriving from Wuhan in attempts to identify potentially infected people before they transmit the disease.
Do Americans have anything to worry about?
Since one case of coronavirus has already been reported in the U.S., it may be tempting to feel anxious about the disease. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday declined to declare 2019-nCoV a global public health emergency. WHO reiterated that, although the disease has become an emergency in China, authorities there are well equipped to contain it, just as they are in the other countries where it has been detected. The WHO decision implies that, for now, Americans need not worry about coronavirus – but if you do experience symptoms, you may want to visit an emergency room.