If you’ve been following the news about the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), it’s likely that you’ve grown a little nervous after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last Thursday that 2019-nCoV has spread for the first time in the United States. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a coronavirus is, how it may be spread, and what precautions can be taken against it.
As of the beginning of February 2020, the 2019-nCoV outbreak has killed at least 305 people and infected more than 14,300 globally as it continues to spread beyond China. The virus has been confirmed in more than 25 countries and territories since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The rapid outbreak of 2019-nCoV has reached far enough to be declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization (WHO). But what does that mean exactly? According to the WHO, PHEIC is declared if an extraordinary event poses a public health threat to other nations through the spread of disease and potentially requires a coordinated international response. Since PHEIC was defined in 2005, two years after another coronavirus – severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), spread through China – it has been used only six times: for outbreaks of swine influenza A(H1N1) in 2009, poliovirus in 2014, Ebola in 2014, Zika virus in 2016, Ebola in 2019 and, now, 2019-nCoV in 2020.
What is a Coronavirus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve to infect humans and then spread between people such as with SARS in 2003, and now with 2019-nCoV. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous, causing only upper respiratory infection symptoms like a stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, and sometimes a fever. However, if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract (the windpipe and lungs), it can cause pneumonia and be life-threatening, especially in young children, older people, and people with weakened immune systems.
How does the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Spread?
While 2019-nCoV is a new virus that has never been seen before, it’s part of a family of viruses that are well-known both to medical experts and the public. For example, the common cold can be caused by certain coronaviruses. And while influenza is not a coronavirus, it’s actually quite similar to 2019-nCoV. Both result in symptoms including a cough and fever. While much is still unknown about how 2019-nCov spreads, from what scientists can tell so far, the virus can spread via close person-to-person contact and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory illnesses spread. According to research done by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), coughs and sneezes can travel several feet and stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes. These droplets can come into direct contact with other people, or can infect those who pick them up by touching surfaces on which the infected droplets land, or by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. It is not yet known how long 2019-nCoV can survive on surfaces, but in similar viruses, the range is between a few hours or weeks.
While research on the 2019-nCoV is ongoing, Ma Xiaowei, director of China’s National Health Commission, announced last weekend that researchers believe that 2019-nCoV’s viral incubation period (the time it takes for an infected person to develop symptoms) could last up to 14 days and that researchers in China now believe the virus is infectious during that time.
Taking Precautions Against the Coronavirus
While the statistics about 2019-nCoV may seem alarming, medical experts have a simple message for Americans: keep doing what you’re doing to stay healthy. According to WHO officials, the vast majority of 2019-nCoV cases outside of China have a recent travel history to Wuhan, or have had close contact with someone with a recent travel history to Wuhan. Public health officials in the United States have emphasized that the risk to the American public remains low, and spreading within the U.S. has so far been limited to seven confirmed cases as of February 2, 2020.
As of February 2, 2020, the CDC has not recommended that Americans wear protective face masks, or take any dramatic measures against 2019-nCoV. Instead, U.S. health officials are recommending prevention measures in keeping with those deployed during a normal flu season, including: proper handwashing, healthy diet, regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and avoiding people who are sick.
It’s also a good idea to routinely disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home, especially if someone in your family is sick, and to strategically disinfect items like restaurant tables, changing tables, and your cellphone when you’re out and about. Experts agree that disinfecting is very important for the prevention of any kind of viral infection.
At Vital Oxide, we do not know of any domestic product that can make direct claims about killing the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, as testing is not yet available in the United States. However, Vital Oxide has demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to 2019-nCoV on hard non-porous surfaces. Therefore, this product can be used against 2019-nCoV when used in accordance with the directions for use against Norovirus Feline Calicivirus** and Canine Parvovirus, Strain Cornell-780916, ATCC VR-2016** on hard, non-porous surfaces. Refer to the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/
Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant that is designed to be a powerhouse germ killer, while at the same time being gentle, fragrance-free, and safe to use around kids and pets. Use Vital Oxide to disinfect items and surfaces in your home, vehicle, workplace, or school. Just visited someone in the hospital? Spray your shoes liberally with Vital Oxide and let air dry to destroy any germs you might have picked up on your visit. Use Vital Oxide to safely disinfect your child’s toys. Take a travel-sized bottle with you when you’re traveling to disinfect your airplane seat, or the dining table at a restaurant.