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Coronavirus outbreak: What we know so far

Last month’s mystery virus in Wuhan, China has officially made its way to the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first case of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the U.S. was announced on January 21, and as of Thursday, January 23, CDC’s health warning related to the virus was escalated to level 3.

Coronavirus is part of a large family of viruses that infects humans mainly with mild upper respiratory diseases like the common cold. At least two previously identified cases of coronaviruses have caused severe diseases like SARS-CoV (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus) and MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus). However, both SARS and MERS have been ruled out as the cause of the current outbreak.

Here’s what we know so far:

The outbreak caused by the new coronavirus is ongoing. It’s clear that the virus is spreading person-to-person, but we don’t know how contagious it is or what the incubation period might be. As with all contagious viruses, older adults and people with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems are at increased risk for severe symptoms. Since the outbreak in Wuhan began, Chinese health officials have reported hundreds of cases of severe illness, including deaths.

Initially, some patients were linked to the Wuhan South China Seafood City (also called the South China Seafood Wholesale Market and the Hua Nan Seafood Market). However, following the closing of the market on January 1, 2020, more cases were identified — suggesting that continued person-to-person spread was occurring.

In response to this outbreak, Chinese health officials have implemented quarantine measures and started exit screening for travelers leaving the city of Wuhan. Several countries and territories in the region have also reported to have implemented health screening of travelers arriving from Wuhan.

Information for those traveling to/from Wuhan, China:

The U.S. State Department has set a level 2 travel advisory, urging people to exercise caution if traveling to an affected area; authorities advise that all non-essential travel to Wuhan be avoided at this time. However if travel is necessary, it’s recommended to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead) and animal markets. Travelers from Wuhan to the United States and other countries may be asked health-related questions and screened for fever and cold symptoms. Signs and symptoms of this illness include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

If you traveled to Wuhan and have any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately. Prior to visiting a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

Prevention tips and helpful resources:

In the U.S., we’re in the midst of flu season, so it’s critical to follow the advice of practicing good hand hygiene by covering your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve if you cough or sneeze. At work, be sure to clean your desk and/or station and avoid direct contact with others who may be ill. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Sedgwick will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates if necessary. Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for the most recent information. 

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