The outbreak of a fast-moving coronavirus has concerned medical officials and travelers worldwide. More than 2,000 cases of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV), commonly referred to as Wuhan coronavirus, have been confirmed in China and more than a dozen other countries, and at least 56 resulted in death. A handful of cases have been reported in the U.S., including two in Southern California, and more are under investigation.
While most coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate respiratory illness in people who are young and healthy, the Wuhan coronavirus and two others — MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV — can cause severe illness and, in some cases, lead to death. The majority of the deaths caused by the new coronavirus have occurred in Wuhan, China, affecting those age 50 and over with underlying medical conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the new coronavirus is widely believed to spread person-to-person. Symptoms of coronavirus infection can become severe. However, most people with the virus experience symptoms similar to the common cold, including:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
The flu is still a greater risk for most patients
Most patients in the U.S. who experience these symptoms should be concerned about a far more common illness, according to Dr. Joshua Minuto, an infectious disease doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.
“While the coronavirus is getting plenty of attention, for San Diegans, the major concern at this time of year is the flu. The same preventive measures apply for both the flu and the virus from China, as well as many other common, seasonal viruses: wash your hands often, cover your mouth and nose with the bend in your elbow when sneezing or coughing, and if you haven’t already done so, get the flu vaccine,” says Dr. Minuto.
Flu vaccine is still available in San Diego.
What is happening at Sharp hospitals and clinics
Sharp HealthCare facilities have a standard protocol in place for any infectious disease, including coronavirus. Sharp emergency departments, urgent care centers and medical clinics ask all arriving patients about any recent travel out of the country and carry out respiratory precautions for patients with symptoms. Those precautions involve masking of the patient and masking of caregivers who interact with the patient, and isolating the patient to prevent any potential spread of infection. Stands with masks are conveniently located in all Sharp patient areas.
Special visitor restrictions are currently in place due to heightened flu activity. These policies limit two visitors at a time to a patient room and exclude visitors age 12 and younger. Guests of any age with symptoms of a cold or the flu may not visit.
While there is currently no vaccination for the Wuhan coronavirus, the CDC lists detailed warnings and symptom information for those traveling to and from China on its website. Airports in the U.S. and internationally, including LAX, are screening patients who have traveled to known infection zones for symptoms.
Learn more by visiting our coronavirus FAQ page.