Novel Coronavirus and Respiratory Disease

By Adraenne Bowe, NP

The outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, which began in Wuhan, China during January 2020, is now reaching beyond China and has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

This novel coronavirus is a new strain of virus in the coronavirus family that has not been previously seen in humans. There are other viruses in the coronavirus family (such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)) that can cause illness in both humans and animals. These viruses can cause either mild illness like a cold or can make people dangerously ill with pneumonia.

Since the virus is very new, health authorities are carefully watching how it behaves. Although originally thought to spread from animal to person, person-to-person transmission is now confirmed, spreading in the same manner as colds and flu.

Although usually a mild to moderate illness, the virus can progress to pneumonia, serious disease, and death. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

As of March 2, 2020, more than 90,000 human infections have been confirmed internationally in 77 countries and territories, with over 3,000 deaths. Incidence in the U.S. is still relatively low, but evolving; the total number of cases diagnosed thus far exceeds 100, occurring in 15 states, with 6 deaths.

There is no vaccine or treatment available for this or other coronaviruses. Precautions and preventive measures are similar to those for colds and flu. Face masks for healthy individuals are not generally helpful and are not advised. Recommended preventive measures are described by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

A diagnostic test to confirm the disease is available through the CDC. Testing in New York has recently become available through the New York State Department of Health in Albany and will shortly become available through the New York City Department of Health. Patients must see a health care provider first to obtain laboratory testing.

Submitted on: MAR 5, 2020

Category: COVID-19 | Health & Wellness