Image courtesy CDC. Case counts as of Jan. 26, 2020
First off and foremost, if you live in the U.S., there’s no need to be alarmed. While there are estimated to be thousands of cases in China – mainly in Hubei province and its capital city, Wuhan, which is located in the eastern part of the country – there are few cases here in America.
The disease, which for now is being called the 2019 novel coronavirus, is in the same family as the common cold. Symptoms may include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, people have died, with at least 80 deaths reported in China.
Here in the U.S., doctors, hospital workers and other health professionals are on high alert for the disease. People who are sick in the U.S. can be isolated in hospitals to help prevent spread of the disease.
So why all the hullaballoo on TV and online? Part of the reason is that the 2019 novel coronavirus is a new disease that hasn’t been seen in humans before. So health officials want to find out more.
The new virus may also be similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome, a disease that killed 800 people around the world about 20 years ago. That worries health officials. But even during that outbreak, there were only eight cases of SARS in the U.S., and no deaths here.
More cases of 2019 novel coronavirus are expected to be reported in the U.S. in coming days and weeks. And it may be spread between people here at some point. In the past, health workers who are caring for sick people have been at high risk for such infections.
So you may be asking, “What does this mean for me?” Good question. In short, the risk to you and the rest of the U.S. general public is low. In fact, it’s much more likely that you’ll get the flu, which is estimated to have sickened 15 million and killed about 8,800 people since September in the U.S.