by Cat Ellis, The Organic Prepper:
(Jan. 22, 2020) The CDC has confirmed the first case of 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the US. The patient is a man in his 30s who had recently traveled through the Wuhan region in China to Snohomish County, Washington State, north of Seattle.
And, according to the CDC, this won’t be the last case.
Coronaviruses can produce severe, sometimes fatal respiratory illness. The 2019-nCoV appears to be a fast-moving, highly contagious virus. So far, there are 6 confirmed deaths out of approximately 300 confirmed cases.
Here is what we know right now.
What Is a coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a relatively common type of virus among mammals. In spite of how common they are, relatively few of them make humans ill. When they do make us sick, however, it can be serious. Deadly serious.
The term “coronavirus” comes from its appearance. The virus is covered in spikes, giving it a crown-like appearance. The spikes look like a halo or corona. Both SARS and MERS are coronaviruses that have proven fatal. There’s an ongoing outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in Saudi Arabia which has killed 858 people globally since 2012.
Coronaviruses are enveloped RNA viruses. Because they are enveloped, they have greater protection. RNA viruses mutate more frequently than DNA viruses. So, what we have here is a virus that is well-protected from our immune system and that has a greater likelihood of mutation. Both of these pose challenges to developing treatments.
How does a coronavirus make you sick?
Coronaviruses produce respiratory symptoms like a cold or flu. Symptoms include coughing, fever, congestion, headaches, body aches, and a sore throat. Coronaviruses can, however, develop into viral pneumonia.
For people in at-risk populations, such as the very young or very old, or who also have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, the risk of dying from pneumonia is very real.
What is 2019-nCoV?
The Wuhan Coronavirus, officially known as 2019-nCoV, is a coronavirus first identified from a patient in Wuhan, China. The novel (new) coronavirus was first noted in mid-December. The illness has been linked to a market. According to Cidrap:
Today, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Wuhan authorities told visiting Hong Kong health officials that three members of the same household were among the 41 cases. They include a father, his son, and a cousin who ran a seafood stall at the market at the center of the investigation and got sick at the same time, suggesting that they may have been exposed to the same source. The market also sold live animals such as poultry, bats, and marmots, along with wildlife parts.
Since coronaviruses are spread by mammals, it is unlikely that the family because infected from their own seafood stand. It is more likely that they were infected by live animals from a nearby vendor.
How is the Wuhan Coronavirus spread?
The big threat is person-to-person transmission. Early reports stated it was transmitted animal-to-person. But it wasn’t long before the worst was confirmed.
The wife of the man who owned the seafood stand got sick. She hadn’t been to the market and could only have caught it from her husband. Soon, more person-to-person cases began popping up, including healthcare workers caring for infected patients.
The transmission of coronavirus is similar to influenza. It is transmitted via the water droplets spread in the air when someone coughs, sneezes, or breathes. It is possible that it is transmitted by coming in contact with other infected bodily fluids. MERS, for example, is transmitted not only person-to-person but also camel-to-human through contact with infected camel urine and milk.
How deadly is the Wuhan Coronavirus?
For some people, like the man in Washington State, the Wuhan coronavirus won’t result in anything more than a bad cold. For others, it has been fatal.
At this point, there are 6 confirmed deaths out of 300 or so confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV. That works out to be a 2% mortality rate. Compared to MERS which has slightly over 30% mortality rate in patients without pre-existing conditions, this does not appear to be a deadly threat.
One of the victims of 2019-nCoV was an 89-year old man with diabetes and a heart condition. I have not been able to track down information on the other 5 people who died. It would be logical, however, that these victims were also in a weaker condition before they became infected. But, at this point, I want to be careful with assumptions.
However, just because it currently has a 2% mortality rate doesn’t mean that number won’t change. When MERS first emerged, it had a mortality rate of about 60%. It popped up in a limited population, mostly camel herders. Within this group, those with diabetes had an almost 90% mortality rate. However, when it began to spread to the population at large, it dropped to just above 30%.
SARS, another coronavirus that originated in China, had a 15% mortality rate in the general population. Among elderly patients, that jumped to around 50%.
Until we see more information about the other 5 people who died (and future fatalities), and until we have seen this disease spread to more people in more areas, we just don’t know if that 2% number is going to go up, down, or stay the same. What we do know is that mutation is always a risk with coronaviruses. The more people who become infected, the greater the chance for a mutation and a higher mortality rate.
There will be more Cases of Wuhan Coronavirus
What is a near certainty is that there will be plenty more cases of 2019-nCoV. Not only is the CDC anticipating more cases, but the WHO is also concerned about sustained transmission. In other words, they expect this to last a while.
In major developments surrounding the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak centered in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it sees possible evidence of sustained transmission—meaning the virus is spreading beyond just clusters of patients.
In addition, China today reported another spike in cases—to more than 300—plus two more deaths, with more newly affected provinces, while Taiwan reported its first 2019-nCoV case in a traveler from Wuhan.
National Geographic points out the uncertainty in how deadly, or not, this coronavirus could be:
“It’s unclear whether or not this [Wuhan] virus is simply going to die out or whether it’s going to evolve into something that’s more pathogenic,” Lipkin says. “We don’t have any evidence yet of superspreaders, and hopefully we never will. But we also don’t know how long this new coronavirus lasts on surfaces, or how long people will continue to shed virus after being infected.”
Where has the Wuhan Coronavirus spread?
2019-nCoV is our latest pandemic. To be clear, pandemic doesn’t mean “extra-deadly”. It means that a disease has crossed a border or is impacted a significantly large landmass. Wuhan Coronavirus has already crossed multiple borders thanks to air travel, plus it is spreading further within China.
Currently, 2019-nCoV has been confirmed in China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, the US and possibly Australia (still waiting on test results to confirm the Australian patient’s illness).