NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– The coronavirus has killed at least 80 people in China and sickened nearly 3,000. Now, at least five cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and more than 100 others are under observation.
But there’s still a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus. There are at least a handful of coronavirus cases in the U.S. since the outbreak at ground zero: Wuhan, China. And the number of deaths in that region is spiking.
Who is more at risk for severe symptoms?
The elderly, the young and those with underlying health conditions.
“It looks like it’s being transmitted very similar to influenza, from a droplet, human to human contact, also from touching surfaces and not washing your hands and then touching your mouth and your face can actually spread it as well,” said Dr. William Horgan.
Dr. William Horgan, the Medical Director of Quality & Safety at Backus & Windham Hospitals, says it is still unclear as to when the coronavirus is contagious.
“That is right now up for debate. Some researchers feel that patients may be asymptomatic or without any symptoms and still be contagious. Whereas most types of viral illnesses, especially flu-like illnesses and common cold-like illnesses, people are usually symptomatic. They already have the fever and they already have the cough and the symptoms, and they are contagious during that period of time,” said Horgan.
Symptoms are similar to other viral illnesses.
“They are flu-like, so high fever and mostly respiratory. So a lot of cough, a dry hacking cough. Usually non-productive but fevers, malaise, similar to influenza.”
Prevention comes down to basic steps.
“Cover your cough, wash your hands. If you’re sick please stay home from work, please keep your child home from school if they’re sick. And that’s be best way to prevent viral illnesses such as this,” said Horgan.
Yale New Haven Health system wide is recommending the screening of patients with respiratory infections to determine whether they have been to Wuhan or if they’ve been exposed to anyone who may have been infected.
Treatment will target the symptoms and includes putting the patient if possible in an airborne infection isolation room.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the health risk to the American public low at this time. But with globalization, no vaccine and no anti-viral drug, it is challenging.