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Coronavirus

The coronavirus has been making news and scaring people around the world. While the idea is frightening it’s important to keep perspective and avoid panic. Coronaviruses are not new but different strains have been newly identified. They come in very mild forms and some more aggressive forms. We have seen new coronaviruses in the form of SARs and MERs in past years that were also scary but wound up being relatively short lived.

It is too early to tell what will happen with this one but here’s what we know so far. It can be spread from person to person though it does not seem to be as contagious as the current circulating flu. There is no evidence that the virus is mutating despite some early reports that it was. It seems to have a long incubation period (the time between exposure and onset of illness) anywhere between 1 and up to 14 days. It is unclear when during that time it becomes contagious. This is really key in that if it can be spread when you have no symptoms it is more likely to circulate. While it is potentially lethal there are likely many people who are not really ill at all making the total fatality rate much lower than it seems. Good news that there are probably many people who suffer few consequences, bad in that there may be a lager reservoir of illness that we have to deal with. It’s hard to test everyone with a runny nose this time of year. Early reports indicate that most fatalities have been in elderly individuals with some underlying medical condition.

There has been a very robust response from China indicating either they are very worried or they have become more diligent because of criticism they faced with the SARS outbreak in 2003. Our own CDC is all over this at an early point, well before it has gained a foothold here. That should help a lot.

We all need to remember when the media uses words like “deadly” to describe this outbreak, any flu virus can be deadly and right now the normal types of influenza we see every year are much more prevalent. The CDC estimates so far for this season there have been 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths. Use common sense, wash hands, avoid sick individuals and get your flu shot if you have not. If you have the flu, stay home, rest and alert someone if you have any trouble breathing. It’s important to stay out of the public until you have not had fever for at least 24 hours and are feeling better. We will keep an eye on this outbreak. Watch here for updates as we get them.

If you are returning from China and are ill or have a sick child or have been exposed to a person that returned from china please let us know before you come in and we will direct you to an appropriate facility that has the ability to test for the virus.

If you have nay questions about the outbreak, the CDC website (CDC.gov) is excellent and as always you can call us any time.