Coronavirus: What We Know Now

Information continues to pour in on the coronavirus.

Northern Westchester Hospital and Debra Spicehandler, M.D., co-chief of Infectious Diseases at the Hospital have released an update on the coronavirus. They report that new information continues to emerge about coronavirus, a respiratory illness that was identified in Wuhan City, China, and is now being closely monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). The outbreak continues to spread in China, and additional cases have been identified in a growing number of countries around the world, including the United States.

“Most of the affected patients have been epidemiologically linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible animal origin of the outbreak,” says Debra Spicehandler, M.D., co-chief of Infectious Diseases at Northern Westchester Hospital. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, suggesting limited person-to-person spread is occurring.”

In fact, the first case of person-to-person transmission in the United States was reported in Chicago when the husband of a woman who was hospitalized with coronavirus after returning from Wuhan began showing symptoms; he had not traveled to China.

As we continue to learn more about coronavirus, Spicehandler explains what we know so far:

Am I at risk?
The immediate health risk for the general American public, is considered low, according to the CDC,” says Spicehandler. “While imported cases of coronavirus have been detected in the U.S., the virus is NOT currently spreading through communities in the United States.”

Is it still safe to travel?
“Yes,” says Spicehandler. “Traveling is safe, but nonessential travel to China is not advised at this time.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Symptoms begin like the flu and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Medical researchers estimate that the incubation period varies from two to approximately 14 days.

“If you’ve recently traveled to China, or have been exposed to someone with the virus and are experiencing symptoms, it’s important to contact your doctor immediately,” says Spicehandler. “The virus spreads how most viruses spread, through cough-generated droplets.”

Should I wear a mask?
Spicehandler says that only people in areas at risk should wear masks.

Is there anything I can do?
“The most effective way to prevent the spread of germs is simple hand washing with soap and water,” she says. If soap and water are not available, she recommends using an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Other suggestions:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.