Coronavirus; 9 Cases, 5 Deaths: Is this the Beginning of a Pandemic?

Novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus not previously recognized in human beings. This type of virus is part of a larger family of viruses known to cause a wide range of illnesses from colds and flu to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. (SARS)

There have been no reported cases of the SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) since the year 2004, but several cases of Novel coronavirus have been reported in recent weeks, and SARS is a Coronavirus-like Disease.

Novel coronavirus is described as a sudden onset, (acute) serious respiratory illness with symptoms reported as fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. The illness usually presents as some type of pneumonia, and may cause kidney failure and death.

Treatment options for this disease are dependent on case specific symptomology, as there is no current treatment for this strain of virus, because there have been so few cases reported.

The chief cause of this illness is not known at this time, but taking precautions like avoiding close contact with visibly ill persons and repeated hand washing are good measures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 9 cases of Novel coronavirus in the past 60 days, and they have all been in the Middle East, from the countries of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The Qatari patients are now recovering and both developed acute renal failure and Pneumonia. There have been 5 reported cases in Saudi Arabia, with 3 deaths. Two cases have been reported in Jordan, and both of these patients have died. These cases were discovered through testing of stored samples from a cluster of pneumonia cases that occurred in April 2012.

According to the WHO website, here is the current assessment of this illness:

The current understanding of this novel virus is that it can cause a severe, acute respiratory infection presenting as pneumonia. Acute renal failure has also occurred in five cases.

WHO recognizes that the emergence of a new coronavirus capable of causing severe disease raises concerns because of experience with SARS. Although this novel coronavirus is distantly related to the SARS CoV, they are different. Based on current information, it does not appear to transmit easily between people, unlike the SARS virus.

WHO has closely monitored the situation since detection of the first case and has been working with partners to ensure a high degree of preparedness should the new virus be found to be sufficiently transmissible to cause community outbreaks. Some viruses are able to cause limited human-to-human transmission under condition of close contact, as occurs in families, but are not transmissible enough to cause larger community outbreaks.

WHO continues to work with Member States and international health partners to gain a better understanding of the novel coronavirus and the disease in humans and will continue to provide updated information. As the situation evolves, WHO will reassess its guidance and revise it accordingly.

World travelers have been warned to take precautionary measures, and so should you.

Article by Jim Donahue