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2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Chinese authorities identified a novel coronavirus, also called 2019-nCoV, which has resulted in more than a thousand confirmed cases in China, including cases outside Wuhan City. Since December 2019, additional cases have been identified in a growing number of countries. Public health authorities are learning more every day, but here are answers to frequently asked questions with the most up to date information as of January 28, 2020. We will continue to update this information as we learn more.

If you are a healthcare provider, please visit the DC Health Notices webpage for more information.

Surveillance Data (as of 02/12/2020)

  • Number of patients being monitored by DC Health and tested for 2019-nCoV (PUIs): 5
  • Number of negative results: 5
  • Number of pending results: 0
  • Number of laboratory-confirmed cases: 0

What are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). 

What is Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?

A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The 2019-nCoV is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.

What are the symptoms of this disease?

We are still learning more about the symptoms that this virus causes in infected people as the outbreak progresses. Symptoms associated with coronaviruses can vary:

  • Common coronaviruses can cause symptoms similar to a common cold, such as fever, cough, sore throat, and feeling unwell.
  • The symptoms that are currently being seen with the current novel coronavirus infection are fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath.
  • The coronaviruses SARS and MERS cause more severe symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath that progress to pneumonia, and can be fatal.

How is novel coronavirus transmitted, and when will someone get sick if they’re exposed?

  • Currently, it is thought that the novel coronavirus virus spreads from person-to-person, although they are still gathering information as to how this is occurring.
  • Based on what we know from other coronaviruses, we think that symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-14 days after someone was exposed.
  • When person-to-person spread occurred with other coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person sneezed or coughed, similar to other respiratory viruses.

How can I prevent myself from becoming sick with 2019-nCoV? 

Right now, this virus has not been found to be spreading in the United States, so there are no specific precautions that people need to take to avoid 2019-nCoV at this time.

However, there are everyday actions to take to help prevent spread of illnesses like influenza:

  • It is also flu season, so getting the flu vaccine can help prevent illness
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when feeling sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

What should I do if I have traveled to China, or know someone who has?

  • You may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus if you travelled to certain areas of China.
  • Check for any symptoms that may be consistent with the coronavirus.
  • If you are not having symptoms, at this time it is thought that you are not at risk of being infected with novel coronavirus.

What should I do if I have traveled to China and am feeling sick?

If you are feeling sick with the symptoms previously mentioned, and think you may have been exposed to 2019-nCoV, please stay at home. Contact your healthcare provider immediately to let them know you may have been exposed and need to be evaluated.

What if I am planning to travel to Wuhan, China?

CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to Hubei Province, China.

The most updated recommendations regarding travel to China can be found on the CDC’s Travelers’ Health webpage:

What is DC Health’s response to this situation?

DC Health is monitoring the situation closely and participating in national calls with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We are making sure the DC healthcare community has the most updated guidance by providing information via Health Notices and sharing how providers can reach the DC Health epidemiology team if there is a concern. While the CDC believes the risk to the American public remains low at this time, we are making sure that DC is prepared if a case is identified in the District.

Where can I learn more about the 2019-nCoV?