By Dr. Dave Hnida


(CBS4) – A new strain of a potentially deadly virus originating in China is spreading across the globe

The virus is called a coronavirus, a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to dangerous diseases such as SARS.

This new strain reportedly triggers a serious pneumonia

The majority of cases have been in Wuhan, China, with lesser numbers in other Chinese cities.

The concern is we don’t know much about the virus. Other concerns include under-reporting and a slow reaction by Chinese health officials, and a worry that this new strain of virus could spread like wildfire across the world.

The steps being taken in the United States include screening of passengers who are arriving from Wuhan or connecting cities. The screenings will take place at airports in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Atlanta, and consists of observing people for obvious illness, health questionnaires, and the use of infrared thermography— which can detect elevated body temperature.

RELATED: Denver International Airport Not A ‘Monitored Airport’ Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

At this point, no one knows what to expect in the weeks to come. But the fears of spread are based on several factors:

  • No one has immunity to the new virus.
  • It can be easily spread from person to person via cough, sneeze, or touch.
  • Since it is a virus, antibiotics are of no use.
  • There is no vaccine.
  • The incubation is unknown, but it appears it could be close to a week before a person is exposed and then becomes ill.
  • The symptoms are very similar to the flu, with fever, chills, aches, runny nose, and cough.

The big question is, therefore, how much do you need to worry?

Probably not as much as the story of this mystery virus would make you think, at least not yet.

At this point the CDC is being very cautious and proactive, as are local and state health departments. Risk seems to be directly related to travel from China.  Nonetheless, it is a wait and see situation— the coming weeks will be important.

 

Dr. Dave Hnida

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