NEWS | January 22, 2020

What you need to know about the novel coronavirus

UC Davis expert explains deadly virus as CDC confirms first case in U.S.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is alerting travelers of an ongoing outbreak of pneumonia. The cause is a new, or novel, coronavirus. It was first identified in Wuhan, China.

This week the CDC confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus in the United States in a man who had recently traveled to Wuhan. Some U.S. airports are now screening passengers from China to keep the virus from spreading.

Dean Blumberg is chief of pediatric infectious diseases and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

In this video, he explains what you need to know.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that we’re familiar with. We know they cause respiratory tract infections, including the common cold and more serious infections like SARS. This new, or novel, coronavirus originated in China.

How is Wuhan coronavirus transmitted?

The original cases seemed to be transmitted from animals to humans, but now it’s clear there’s person-to-person transmission. There have been cases in health care workers who haven’t had animal contact, so we know they’re getting it from taking care of patients.

What are the symptoms?

It starts out like any other cold: fever, runny nose, cough and overall just feeling bad. It can progress and cause more severe illness like pneumonia, which can be fatal. The public health authorities have developed a test for novel coronavirus, so anybody who’s at risk – related to travel or contact with travelers – is encouraged to talk to a doctor about getting tested.

Will the flu shot make a difference?

Influenza is completely unrelated to coronavirus. Getting immunized against the flu will protect you only against the flu. There’s no vaccine or specific therapy against coronavirus at the present time. Right now, the therapy for it is supportive. For example, if someone has pneumonia, they might get extra oxygen or be on a ventilator. But there is no specific antiviral therapy.

How can I avoid Wuhan coronavirus?

The only way people can protect themselves is to try not to be around sick people. Also, use respiratory etiquette – meaning, if you’re sick, cover your cough with your arm. Sick people should stay at home and avoid being around others. And handwashing is important. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand gels.