A look at the recent Coronavirus outbreak

Emily Teixeira

As of February 1, 2020, there have been 14,559 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV, a newly identified strain of coronavirus previously not seen in humans. The outbreak of the virus, which causes respiratory illness, began on December 31, 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has since spread to twenty-seven different countries and territories.

There have been eight confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States: one in Washington, one in Arizona, two in Illinois, one in Massachusetts, and three in California and there are 121 cases in 36 states awaiting testing. The first five of the confirmed infected patients recently visited Wuhan, and so far, their condition has been deemed mild. The sixth patient, a man married to the initial Illinois patient, is the first instance of the virus spreading person-to-person within the U.S. Outside of the U.S., Germany, Japan, and Vietnam have also reported cases of person-to-person spread.

There have been no reported cases of 2019-nCoV at or near Pace University, and Pace Health Center employee and nurse practitioner, Ellen Morris-Greffenius stated that the risk of infection to the Pace Community is low. However, in an effort to address any concerns that students, parents, and Pace employees might have, the university’s health center sent out a letter to the Pace community on January 24. This letter offered the latest information about the virus, including symptoms and recommendations from the CDC on how to prevent infection.

According to Morris-Greffenius, Pace University health care providers were informed on the nature of this epidemic, preventative measures, specimen testing, and treatment for patients via the Department of Health and through the Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) Call, and a CDC webinar entitled “Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Interim Guidance for Clinicians.” They advise that anyone who has traveled to Wuhan or who has been in contact with someone under evaluation for 2019-nCoV within the last fourteen days and is experiencing symptoms associated with the virus should seek medical attention, either from their health care provider, the nearest Emergency Room, or the Pace University Health Center. While there is currently no treatment for the viral infection itself, infected people can receive treatment to help relieve symptoms.

There is currently no vaccine for 2019-nCoV. Both the CDC and Morris-Greffenius recommend washing hands thoroughly and regularly; avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; and covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to prevent the spread of this or any other infection. Morris-Greffenius would like to remind students that it is also influenza season, and that Pace’s Health Center, which is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, offers influenza vaccines.

In an interview with News 12 Westchester, Pace clinical instructor Elizabeth Berro reminded students, especially nursing students, that it is important for them to stay home if they feel sick,and that faculty and administration are willing to work with students so that they can stay on top of their class work if their health prevents them from attending the class itself.

As a precautionary measure, a faculty lead trip to China has been canceled, and Pace’s website lists other abroad trips to Hong Kong as suspended.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak a Global Public Health Emergency on January 30, and on January 31, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) declared it a National Public Health Emergency. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a federal fourteen-day quarantine on the 195 American evacuees from Wuhan. Starting February 2, U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and immediate family who have visited the Hubei province of China will undergo a mandatory fourteen-day quarantine, while those who have visited other parts of China will be screened at airports and asked to do a self-quarantine for fourteen days. President Trump signed an order for the U.S. to deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled to China within the past two weeks, excepting the immediate family of U.S. citizens. Delta, American, and United Airlines have all announced that they will temporarily suspend their mainland flights to China.

Within China, the city of Wuhan has shut down its transport links, the city of Huanggang is under quarantine, and the city of Ezhou closed it’s train stations. Roughly 18 million people have been placed in isolation. WHO has said that cutting off a city as large as Wuhan, which is the largest in Central China and home to approximately 11 million, is “unprecedented in public health history.”

At the start of the outbreak in Wuhan, patients reported having had recent contact with a seafood and animal market. As the outbreak progressed, there were fewer reports of contact with said market, indicating that, like other coronavirus-based illnesses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), this new disease was initially spread animal-to-person and is now being spread person-to-person. 2019-nCoV is not the same as MERS or SARS, however, genetic analysis of 2019-nCoV suggest that it evolved from a virus related to that which causes SARS. As of January 30, the worldwide total case count for 2019-nCoV surpassed that of SARS, which, at the peak of its outbreak in 2003, affected a total of 8,096 people. However, thus far the 2% fatality rate of 2019-nCoV is significantly lower than that of both SARS, which had a fatality rate of 10% and MERS, which had a fatality rate of 34%

Common symptoms of a 2019-nCoV infection include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Severity can range from mild to deadly. There have been 305 deaths so far, all in China. While people of all ages can be affected by this disease, older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are more likely to suffer more severe symptoms. It is believed that symptoms appear anywhere between two to fourteen days after the initial infection.

While research is still being done into how this disease is transmitted, it is believed that, like other respiratory-based infections, it spreads when infected persons cough and sneeze. Most recent studies estimate that 2019-nCoV has a reproductive number of approximately 4.08, meaning that, on average, up to four new cases of this disease can stem from a single person. Previously, 2019-nCoV was believed to have lower reproductive numbers, ranging from 1.4 to 2.5, 2.24 to 3.58, and 3.6 to 4.0.

NOTE: This is a rapidly evolving issue. Information and statistics is likely to have changed since this article was published. For regular updates, visit your local, national, and international news sources and the World Health Organization’s and the CDC’s webpages. The Pace Chronicle will be posting an update on its own website within the coming weeks.