Should You Worry About the Deadly Coronavirus?

Health officials urge calm as the fast-spreading virus reaches the United States

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental
Published in
5 min readJan 21, 2020

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Image: BSIP/Getty Images

Please see our Coronavirus FAQ for the latest information on this outbreak.

The United States has its first confirmed case of the deadly coronavirus — an illness spreading with alarming speed across China and elsewhere in Asia. Even so, U.S. health officials say the risk to Americans is low. For now.

As of today, 300 human infections have been confirmed in China, Messonnier said, with at least three deaths. The virus, first detected in December in the city of Wuhan, China, has since spread to Japan, South Korea, and Thailand, and now the United States — in all cases among travelers.

Coronavirus symptoms include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and fever, and can sometimes lead to pneumonia or bronchitis. The elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at particular risk. One worry is that, as with many viruses, people could be transmitting it before they realize they are sick.

The CDC has activated its emergency operations center to manage the situation. Experts say that a resident of Snohomish County in Washington state, who had returned from Wuhan to Seattle January 15, began noticing symptoms. Having read about the coronavirus, the man in his thirties reached out to his medical provider Sunday, January 19. By Monday, a new testing tool at the CDC confirmed he had the coronavirus.

He is feeling well but remains in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center, “out of an abundance of caution,” said Chris Spitters, health officer with the Snohomish Health District, north of Seattle. “We’re very comfortable that this patient is isolated, poses a very little risk to staff and the public.”

From animals to humans

The coronavirus, officially called the “2019 novel coronavirus” or 2019-nCoV, is a previously unknown strain in a family of viruses known to circulate in animals and sometimes in humans.

Only rarely do animal coronaviruses evolve and gain the ability to infect and spread among humans, and scientists still don’t understand how or why this evolution happens.

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB