The deadly Wuhan coronavirus, officially called 2019-nCoV, has killed nine people and infected at least 440 others in China as of Wednesday. The US confirmed its first case, a man in his 30s in Washington state who had visited China, on Tuesday.
Scientists are still scrambling to fully understand the virus, which they confirmed this week could be passed from human to human.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidance for healthcare professionals on the symptoms of the virus.
What to look out for
According to the CDC, a person could be at risk if they have:
- Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, after traveling to Wuhan or having close contact with someone who was ill and is now under investigation for the virus in the past two weeks.
- Fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness after having close contact in the past two weeks with someone who’s been confirmed to have the virus.
The CDC defined “close contact” as being within about 6 feet “or within the room or care area” of a person with the coronavirus for a prolonged period without appropriate protective clothing, or “having direct contact with infectious secretions” of a person with the virus without protective clothing.
The agency said close contact could include “caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health care waiting area or room” with a person with the virus.
The CDC said that if you have traveled to Wuhan recently and feel any of these symptoms, you should “seek medical care right away,” call ahead to tell your doctor about your travel and symptoms, and avoid contact with other people.
People in the US who meet these criteria should be evaluated for the virus and their case reported to their state health department, it added.
Who is most at risk?
Coronaviruses like 2019-nCoV are particularly dangerous for people who have weaker immune systems, like young children and older adults.
There are no vaccines to protect people from contracting a coronavirus.
Pets are also at risk of catching coronaviruses, which can lead to disease and even death.
The source of the Wuhan virus outbreak was identified as a market that sold seafood and live animals like wolves and civet cats. The Chinese government closed the market on January 1.
How to protect yourself
Here are the CDC’s and other healthcare experts’ suggestions for how to protect yourself from the virus while traveling:
- Try to avoid contact with people who display symptoms similar to those of pneumonia or the common cold, like coughing or a runny nose.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when possible.
- Avoid animals and animal markets.
The World Health Organization is set to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday on whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency.