Emerging coronavirus outbreak in China monitored

Jan. 21, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a novel coronavirus in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Chinese authorities first identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in about 200 confirmed human infections in China with three deaths reported. A number of countries, including the U.S., are actively screening incoming travelers from Wuhan and exported cases have been confirmed in Thailand. Chinese health authorities posted the full genome of the so-called “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV” in GenBank, the NIH genetic sequence database, and in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) portal.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS. Past MERS and SARS outbreaks have been complex, requiring comprehensive public health responses. Many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China have 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, suggesting limited person-to-person spread is occurring.

Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern. The risk from these outbreaks depends on characteristics of the virus, including whether and how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications).

There is much more to learn about how the 2019-nCoV virus spreads, severity of associated illness, and other features of the virus. Investigations are ongoing. Based on current information, however, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is deemed to be low at this time.

Access to the full genetic sequence of 2019-nCoV will help identify infections with this virus going forward. More cases may be identified in the coming days, including more in countries outside China, and possibly in the U.S. Given what has occurred previously with MERS and SARS, it’s likely that some limited person-to-person spread will continue to occur.

CDC responses include:

·        CDC is closely monitoring this situation and is working with the World Health Organization (WHO).

·         CDC established a 2019-nCoV Incident Management Structure on Jan. 7, 2020.

·         CDC has updated its interim travel health notice for this destination to provide information to people who may be traveling to Wuhan City and who may get sick.

·         CDC began entry screening of passengers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan China to the three main ports of entry in the U.S. on Jan. 17, 2020.

·         CDC issued an updated interim Health Alert Notice (HAN) Advisory to inform state and local health departments and health care providers about this outbreak on Jan. 17, 2020.

·         CDC has developed a Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test that can diagnose 2019-nCoV. Currently, testing for this virus must take place at CDC, but in the coming days and weeks, CDC will share these tests with domestic and international partners through the agency’s International Reagent Resource.

CDC has the statement.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.