Concern is steadily growing over the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan City, China after 2 travel-related cases have been detected in the United States this week, but CDC officials indicate that the risk to the American public is still low.1,2
A CDC health alert issued to travelers from Wuhan noted an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new type of coronavirus occurring through person-to-person spread. According to the CDC, it is unclear how easily the virus is able to spread, but other parts of China have had cases among those who traveled from Wuhan.3
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, and there are several known coronaviruses that typically only cause mild respiratory disease. However, at least 2 previously identified coronaviruses have caused severe disease–severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.3
Last Friday, the CDC held a response telebriefing addressing the outbreak. Although the situation is still evolving, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) said in the briefing, “We have faced this challenge before first with SARS and later with MERS. Both outbreaks were complex and required a comprehensive public health response.”4
However, she noted that based on the current information, the CDC believes that the current risk from this virus to the general public is low.4
On Tuesday, the CDC confirmed the first case of the 2019-nCoV in the United States in the state of Washington in a patient who recently returned from Wuhan.1 Detection of a second travel-related case in the United States followed, with the CDC confirming the second infection in Illinois today. According to the release, it is likely that more US cases will emerge in the coming days and weeks, but the CDC maintained that the immediate risk to the American public is still low at this time.2
At an International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee meeting held by World Health Organization (WHO), members determined that the outbreak did not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, but committee members agreed on the urgency of the situation. The Committee will reconvene to assess the situation further.5
“The risk of these outbreaks depends on the characteristics of the virus, including if and how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus such as an antiviral treatments or vaccines,” Dr Messonnier said in the CDC briefing.4 “The situation could indeed change quickly. Therefore, we are taking a cautious approach to this outbreak and we’re preparing ourselves to respond quickly to any new developments.”
As such, the CDC has been proactively preparing for the introduction of the 2019-nCoV in the United States for weeks.4
For clinicians, the CDC indicated that providers should obtain a detailed travel history for patients with fever and respiratory symptoms. Patients with these symptoms who were in Wuhan on or after December 1, 2019, and had onset of illness within 2 weeks of leaving, may be infected with the 2019 nCoV. Health care providers should immediately notify both infection control personnel at their facility and their local or state health department.3
1. First Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States [news release]. CDC’s website. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0121-novel-coronavirus-travel-case.html. Accessed January 24, 2020.
2. Second Travel-related Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Detected in United States [news release]. CDC’s website. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0124-second-travel-coronavirus.html. Accessed January 24, 2020.
3. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases.. 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Wuhan, China. CDC. January 23, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.
4. Transcript of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Response Telebriefing [Press Briefing Transcript]. CDC’s website. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/t0117-coronavirus-screening.html. Accessed January 24, 2020.
5. Statement on the meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). WHO’s website. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-01-2020-statement-on-the-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov). Accessed January 24, 2020.