Update: March 11, 2020: World Health Organization (WHO) has given a name to the new virus that emerged late last year in China and has since sickened tens of thousands of people now has an official name: SARS-CoV-2 which causes the disease COVID-19.

Update: March 12, 2020: The head of the World Health Organization, declared on Wednesday, that the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak is now a pandemic and the U.N. health agency is deeply concerned about the alarming levels of spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in more than a thousand confirmed cases in China, including cases outside Wuhan City. Additional cases have been identified in a growing number of other international locations, including Nigeria. The Nigerian Centers for Disease Control (NCDC) is closely monitoring the situation and provides comprehensive and timely updates.

WHAT ARE CORONAVIRUSES?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that were first identified in the mid-1960s and are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Coronaviruses are not typically transmitted between animals and humans. With the discovery of 2019 Novel Coronavirus there are now seven strains of coronavirus know to be capable of transmission from animals to humans. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) CoV was responsible for a large outbreak in 2003 and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrom (MERS) CoV was responsible for an outbreak in 2012.2
Many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, and there is evidence that person-to-person spread is occurring.1

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A HUMAN CORONAVIRUS INFECTION?

Common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Symptoms may include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.3

HOW ARE CORONAVIRUSES SPREAD?

Coronaviruses typically spread via close contact, or respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.4

WHY ARE CORONAVIRUSES AND PARTICULARLY nCoV A CONCERN?

Most people get infected with a human coronavirus at some point in their lives and experience cold-like symptoms a few day before recovering. However, novel coronaviruses - such as MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and 2019-nCoV cause severe symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath that can lead to pneumonia and even death. These coronoaviruses can quickly spread from person to person and can lead to widespread outbreaks. In the case of 2019-nCoV, there is neither a vaccine nor specific treatment.

INFECTION CONTROL MEASURES

There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, NCDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  3. Stay home when you are sick.
  4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with an EPA registered disinfectant.
  6. NCDC recommends wearing a surgical mask as soon as they are identified. Personnel entering the room should use standard precautions, contact precautions, and airborne precautions, and use eye protection.