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The COVID-19 Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

*Updated: April 29, 2020*

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a patient traveling from Wuhan, China to Washington state tested positive for the coronavirus. Not much is known about the coronavirus, but the CDC says that it’s rapidly evolving.

What is the Coronavirus?

CDC officials said, “A novel (new) coronavirus is causing an outbreak of pneumonia illness in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This outbreak began in early December 2019 and continues to expand in scope and magnitude.”

The Coronavirus is Similar to Other Respiratory Syndromes:

The Washington Post says, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to much more serious diseases and can infect both humans and animals, according to the World Health Organization. The strain spreading in China is related to two other coronaviruses that have caused major outbreaks in recent years: Middle East respiratory syndrome, also known as MERS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.”

Coronavirus Symptoms

Coronavirus Symptoms include:

  • Respiratory problems

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fever

  • Cough

Left untreated, this can lead to:

  • Pneumonia

  • Kidney failure

  • Acute respiratory syndrome

  • Death

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The CDC’s Immediate Response

The CDC immediately reached out to health officials in Washington State with a full agency response, and a team was deployed to assess the infected patient. Per the CDC’s protocol, all flights from Wuhan have been redirected to San Francisco (SFO), John F. Kennedy (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), and Atlanta (ATL).

The CDC also began screening passengers that were entering the United States from Wuhan. Incoming passengers are screened in a separate area, where health officials can observe travelers and look for signs of illness. Passengers’ temperatures are taken, and if they show signs of the coronavirus, they will receive public health support and additional medical attention at a local hospital. Screenings are not 100% effective, but they serve as educational tools and early intervention techniques. CDC officials hand out literature to asymptomatic airline passengers, and officials hope that if passengers start to show symptoms, they will reach out to a healthcare professional.

Thus far, the CDC has screened over 1,200 people; 12 have received more in-depth screening, and none met the symptoms for the coronavirus. The CDC raised the travel health notice to level 2, which means health officials should practice enhanced precautions. For those traveling to Wuhan, the CDC urges passengers to avoid contact with sick people, dead or alive animals, and animal markets.

Wuhan’s Response to the Coronavirus

Wuhan health officials are working rapidly to contain the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to imposing travel restrictions, officials have set up screenings and are taking passengers’ temperatures at airports, train stations, ferry ports, and bus stations. The virus has come about during China’s Lunar New Year, which, according to the New York Times, “Is the world’s largest annual migration of people, with hundreds of millions of travelers fanning out across the country and the world.” However, many Chinese travelers have canceled their Lunar New Year plans.

Chinese officials issued stark warnings to travelers. Officials said they might not be able to contain a coronavirus outbreak and they are warning the public that the virus could mutate and become more widespread. According to CNBC, “On Thursday, China locked down the two cities at the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak. Most transport in Wuhan was suspended and people were told not to leave. Hours later, state media in neighboring Huanggang, a city of some 6 million people, said it was imposing a similar quarantine.”

Prevent the Spread of the Coronavirus: The Importance of Hand Washing

The coronavirus, along with the 2019-2020 deadly flu season, serves as a reminder to practice good hand hygiene. Putting your hands in your eyes, nose, and mouth is the fastest way to spread germs and catch the flu or coronavirus. To prevent the flu and viral infections this season, individuals should learn the importance of proper handwashing. The CDC urges travelers to “wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.”

What to Do If You Have Symptoms of the Coronavirus

If individuals experience fever or symptoms in 14 days after exposure to an infected individual, that's an indicator to seek help. Immediately reach out to your healthcare provider, and let providers know ahead of time you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness’ Response

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness is following this outbreak closely, and we will continue to provide updates as news emerges. Although not much is known about the coronavirus at the moment, we feel it is our responsibility to discuss how this virus could potentially impact young children. Young children have no pre-existing immune systems, and according to Vox, “if a child gets a virus she's never had before, because she has no preexisting protection, her illness is typically going to be more intense and last longer.” The coronavirus could potentially be more deadly for young children, so if parents notice symptoms of the coronavirus, they should reach out to their pediatrician immediately.