The Wuhan coronavirus has the nation on edge as cases of the deadly virus were confirmed in the U.S. late last week. The respiratory illness was first detected in Wuhan City, China, and has gone on to sicken thousands, killing at least 132 people across Asia. There are 5 confirmed cases in the States, so far.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport now joins a growing list of U.S. airports screening passengers for the virus as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works to curb the spread of what’s now being called a public health crisis.
Here’s what you should know about the fast-spreading illness:
What is the coronavirus?
According to the CDC, the coronavirus is actually a family of respiratory tract viruses that are common in several animal species, including camels, cats, cattle and bats. Although rare, animal coronaviruses can be zoonoses — diseases passed from animals to humans — and then spread from person to person.
The most recent outbreak, a novel coronavirus named “2019-nCoV,” has reportedly been linked to a live animal market in Wuhan City, however, Chinese health officials are still investigating,
Where did the outbreak start?
The first cases of the 2019-nCoV were first identified in Wuhan City in early December 2019. The eastern Chinese city, boasting a population of more than 11 million, has since been quarantined in an effort to keep the sickness from spreading.
How is it passed?
Currently, health officials said the virus is being spread from person to person. It’s unclear how easily 2019-nCoV is passed, but similar to the MERS and SARS viruses, is likely spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
“The inhalation of droplets when someone else coughs may be in the air,” Dr. Colleen Kraft, associate chief medical officer of Emory Hospital, told 11 Alive in a recent interview. “A route that we don’t often think about is really our environment can transfer it.”
What are the risks / symptoms?
The coronavirus has been known to cause mild to severe respiratory illness, sometimes with fatal effects. Symptoms include coughing, fever, and kidney failure. Infected persons can also show little to no symptoms at all.
How do I protect myself?
Concerned travelers have resorted to wearing surgical masks to protect themselves against the spread of the disease. According to CNN, major U.S. retailers are already selling out of the item commonly used as a basic defense against most viruses, including the flu.