What do you need to know about coronavirus?

Published on February 18, 2020
A world map features the U.S. and China
(Image courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Health officials across the country are on high alert due to a new human coronavirus that originated in China. Infection with the virus causes flu-like symptoms in people, including mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

The disease caused by the virus has been dubbed COVID-19 and is believed to affect only people, not animals. Here’s what veterinary professionals need to know about it:

  • The outbreak began in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China.
  • Initial reports implicated a seafood and animal market in Wuhan City. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.
  • Right now, the primary concern is for human health.
  • There is no antiviral agent proven to be effective against this disease, and there is no immunization available.
  • At this time, experts have not expressed concern about transmission to or from animals. Multiple international health organizations have indicated that pets and other domestic animals are not considered at risk for contracting COVID-19 or transmitting the virus that causes the disease.
  • The immediate health risk to the general public in the U.S. is considered low at this time, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the virus a very serious public health threat.
  • The coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 has been designated 2019-nCoV. A coronavirus group from the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is responsible for naming new viruses, has proposed calling it SARS-CoV-2.
  • As veterinary professionals, we might get questions about the outbreak. As always, careful handwashing and other infection control practices can greatly reduce the chance of spreading disease.

Worldwide, there had been more than 73,330 reported cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, February 18. In the U.S., 15 cases had been confirmed in seven states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. These did not include several people who were among 300 Americans evacuated from a cruise ship where they had been quarantined for nearly two weeks.

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory warning Americans not to travel to China.

Looking for more information?

Find more information about 2019-nCoV and its impact on the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) websites. These pages may be of additional interest:

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