Division of Infectious Diseases

Novel Coronavirus – What You Need to Know Now

Content courtesy of Dr. Angela Hewlett

Coronaviruses are common respiratory pathogens, and generally cause mild symptoms of the ‘common cold’.  However, other coronavirus strains have been known to cause outbreaks that lead to more severe disease like pneumonia, and even death.  Examples of these include SARS and MERS, which are both coronaviruses with mortality rates of 10% and 34%, respectively. Here is a newly published article on Coronaviruses from JAMA: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2759815


An outbreak of a novel coronavirus (nCoV) not previously identified in humans began in Wuhan, China (a city of 11 million people) at the end of December.  The first cases were linked to a seafood market, but subsequent cases have demonstrated that human-to-human transmission is occurring, likely via the respiratory route.   Thus far, 571 confirmed cases and 17 deaths have been reported.  Most of the deaths have occurred in elderly patients with multiple comorbid conditions.  The majority of nCoV cases have occurred in Wuhan, China, but multiple travel-related cases have been seen in other countries, including the United States.  It is highly likely that more travel-related cases will be detected as the outbreak evolves.  A laboratory test is now available, and scientists are working on a vaccine, although this process could take some time.

While it is important to continue to monitor the nCoV situation closely, it is also necessary to keep this in perspective.  Influenza causes between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths in the United States every year, and we are in the middle of a very active influenza season.  People should remember to get their flu shot, wash their hands, cover their cough, and stay home from work or school if they are ill.  These basic infection control measures help prevent the spread of any respiratory disease.    

Check out the Facebook live video of UNMC ID experts, Drs. Lawler, Hewlett & Rupp answering questions: https://www.facebook.com/NebraskaMed/videos/624298111651330/

CDC resources on status updates, travel information and more here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2Fnovel-coronavirus-2019.html

WHO resources: https://www.who.int/csr/don/17-january-2020-novel-coronavirus-japan-ex-china/en/


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