Earlier this week the CDC confirmed the United States had its first case of a deadly new strain of coronavirus “2019-nCoV.” The patient is from Washington state and was returning to the United States from Wuhan, China. At least seventeen people in China have died from the coronavirus. In a press release, the CDC stated that “[w]hile originally thought to be spreading from animal-to-person, there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening.” According to the CDC:
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people; numerous other coronaviruses circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) (link) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) (link).
The CDC has developed a test to diagnose the virus and begun implementing public health screening at three airports in the U.S.: San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX). Public health screening is expected to begin this week in Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD). The CDC has developed guidance for clinicians treating patients with 2019-nCoV. The World Health Organization is meeting on January 22 in order to determine whether or not an emergency designation will be placed on the coronavirus. In addition, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) sent a letter on January 21, 2020 to CDC Director Robert Redfield requesting an update on steps the agency is taking to protect travelers from the coronavirus.
There are no specific treatments for illness caused by coronavirus. Also, there remain significant unknowns about the 2019-nCoV strain, including the severity of the virus. The Health Law Pulse will continue to provide updates as more is known about this public health crisis.