SILVIA OAKLAND, TRUMPET EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
“Unfortunately we can’t tell the difference between a cold and this virus,” Arlene Prather-O’Kane, MA, RN and adjunct professor of public health at Wartburg College, said. “A cold is a virus too, but normally you get it for a few days and feel miserable and then you get over it. This particular coronavirus you might feel miserable but then all of a sudden it’s bronchitis, it’s gone to pneumonia and it shuts down your entire immune system.”
The United States, Australia and Japan are temporarily denying access into the country as of Saturday, Feb. 1, for anyone that traveled to China due to the coronavirus which began December 2019 in Wuhan City, China, according to the New York Times.
Along with denying access into the country, the United States has also seen eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
According to Prather-O’Kane, the incubation period for the coronavirus ranges from two to 14 days, which can cause people to not even know they have contracted the virus.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about it, but what we do know is it’s a coronavirus which is an RNA virus,” Anna Fagre ’10, DVM, MPH, said. “Other coronaviruses to note Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), those are both other coronaviruses that have caused issues in the recent past.”
Similar to MERS and SARS, the coronavirus is a respiratory illness which is typically spread from animal to human contact. However, as more cases were reported throughout China officials learned the virus could be contracted from human to human contact, according to the CDC.
“If people in the United States should have any concern it should be about influenza.”— ANNA FAGRE
“The term for a disease that is transmitted back and forth from animals to humans is a zoonotic disease, and other zoonotic diseases are rabies and influenza,” Fagre said. “We are assuming it’s a zoonotic based on the fact that it’s a coronavirus … it’s transferred by respiratory secretions, so by airizolesed droplets when someone coughs, that’s not too different from how influenza is transmitted or how coronaviruses are transmitted.”
Fagre also said the coronavirus differs from diseases because of the coronavirus’ inability to inflict neurological damage like one would see in a rabies case.
While the virus may be similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) with this behind and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
“As of this point with the new coronavirus, which they are calling the 2019NCOV, it’s number seven out of all the coronaviruses we’ve sort of been tracking coronaviruses since the mid 1960s,” Prather-O’Kane said. “Some of them are pretty common, but they all exhibit similar symptoms: fever, upper respiratory symptoms, coughing. They can go from mild to severe to fatal.”
“There is a lot of media hype and frenzy and there’s a lot we don’t know. I think it’s important if you’re interested in keeping up on this [the virus] follow your local public health officials, follow the W.H.O. [World Health Organization], follow scientists, if anyone is really interested in trying to stay up with this they can get in contact with me.”— ANNA FAGRE
As of Sunday, Feb. 2 Vietnam has stopped flights from China until May 1 and New Zealand is requiring those returning from China stay in a self-quarantine for 14 days, according to the New York Times.
“If you’re wanting to travel to China, it’s called a level three, which is the highest level it gets. Which means if you don’t need to go there, you don’t go,” PratherO’Kane said. “It’s called non-essential travel, you could get exposed and we don’t want people going in or people coming out.”
While the coronavirus has caused global fear, Fagre said those in the United States should be cautious of the virus, but also influenza due to the high mortality rate of influenza. From Oct. 1, 2019, to Jan. 25, 2020, the CDC estimated 10,000 to 25,000 deaths from influenza.
“If people in the United States should have any concern it should be about influenza,” Fagre said. “When you’re looking at actual risks, it’s a hell of a lot more scary for me to go to a grocery store or daycare or visit a hospital because of how bad the influenza is this year.”
Fagre and Prather-O’Kane encouraged those who are curious about the coronavirus to stay up to date through trusted government health sites and to continue to practice healthy lifestyle practices to prevent contracting an illnesses.
“There is a lot of media hype and frenzy and there’s a lot we don’t know,” Fagre said. “I think it’s important if you’re interested in keeping up on this [the virus] follow your local public health officials, follow the W.H.O. [World Health Organization], follow scientists, if anyone is really interested in trying to stay up with this they can get in contact with me.”
For updates on the coronavirus or for more information, go to cdc.gov/nCoV or who.int/emergencies/diseases/ novel-coronavirus-2019.