The spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 73,000 people globally and led to nearly 1,900 deaths, may not be as impactful in the U.S. as it has been in China, where the virus is thought to have originated. Over a dozen people have tested positive in the U.S. as of mid-February, according to the World Health Organization.
In an early February interview, Dr. Christina Madison, associate professor of pharmacy practice with Roseman University of Health Sciences, said, “As far as from a public health standpoint, I think that we have the infrastructure to isolate and do contact investigations to just really make sure that the spread is very minimal here in the United States.”
Rural Nye County has the infrastructure in place to handle the potential spread of the coronavirus to the area, according to Madison.
“I would say that your health authority and your health department is very well equipped to deal with anything that potentially could happen if you do identify that there is a case of coronavirus in your area,” Madison said. “That person will be isolated and confirmed by laboratory testing, and the appropriate respiratory isolation and precaution measures will be done, as well as contact tracing, which is where they go back and look to see what that person’s potential exposure risk to others would be.”
Madison said, “Anybody who is even suspected to have had contact with someone who came from the area where the infection is endemic has been isolated and is now under quarantine for at least 14 days from the timeframe that they were identified. It is very low risk at this point.”
The virus is thought to have originated in Wuhan, China. About 72,400 of the confirmed coronavirus cases are in China, where 1,869 people have died as of Feb. 17, according to the WHO. Over 12,800 of the more than 73,000 confirmed patients have recovered, according to the WHO.
Outside of China, four people have died: one person in Hong Kong, one in France and one person in the Philippines. One patient in Japan died, according to the WHO.
The virus is thought to spread through respiratory droplets and can be spread through sneezing or coughing.
“As of this point…the spread is through those respiratory droplets, so by coughing or sneezing in the air, touching surfaces that someone else has come in contact with that has the virus, and then close, personal contact with someone by touching, shaking their hand, those kinds of things that spread the virus,” Madison said.
Madison said, “Anyone with underlying respiratory issues or chronic medical conditions that could put them at risk for respiratory illnesses like influenza—in this case, a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that is also the cause of the common cold, as well as things like MERS and SARS.”
The coronavirus itself is not that dangerous.
“The virus itself is not what people are becoming sick and ill from,” Madison said. “It’s that initial viral infection that actually puts the body at risk for the secondarial bacterial pneumonia, which is what causes them to become sick, ill and potentially die.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Also, symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC.
Nevada has no confirmed cases of coronavirus.
One person in Clark County tested negative for coronavirus in February. This person had traveled from Wuhan to the United States in mid-January and sought medical care on Jan. 28, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.
“The Health District worked closely with local and state health care partners and the CDC to investigate this case,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, Acting Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, in a written statement. “We appreciate the cooperation and assistance we received.”
More can be found at cdc.gov/ncov
The WHO has a global tracker of the coronavirus: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
Contact Interim Editor Jeffrey Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Feb. 17.