News of the Coronavirus has many Americans worried about the global spread of the infectious disease. The Herald asked a local infectious disease expert about the virus.
Dr. Sarfraz Ali said there 10 things people should know about Coronavirus:
1. What is it? What does the name mean and how does it affect humans?
Coronavirus has been around for a while. It is considered a common cold virus. We commonly have it in the hospitals, and we treat it on a normal basis as a common cold. However, this is a new strain of Coronavirus that comes from China. If you recall, SARS was one of the Coronaviruses as well as MERS. Both were coronaviruses that were thought to have started from an animal and then crossed over to the human species. So the name 2019 Coronavirus is because it was isolated in 2019.
2. Where did it start and how?
The hypothesis is that it started from Wuhan, China in the meat markets where there are different types of animals where people were in a close confined area where there are different exotic animals and people in China are purchasing these animals so it is suspected that the virus came from an animal to a human or through human contact.
3. Is it communicable and if so how is it spread — through the air or by touch or saliva?
It is usually communicable just like influenza and is usually through a droplet. Patients have a large particle droplet through sneezes and coughs. If you are in a confined area you usually pick it up through inhalation so you are at a risk of acquiring it. At this point in time, I am no sure that touch or a kiss would transmit but the majority of cases are through droplets.
4. It is fatal? How many people have contracted it and how many have died?
As of Jan. 28, there have been more than 4,500 confirmed cases throughout 17 countries with 106 deaths. Most of the fatalities seem to be occurring in patients who have pulmonary illnesses.
5. Who does it affect? Young? Old?
Coronavirus can affect all ages. However, we see this commonly in patients that come into the hospital with comorbidity conditions, with respiratory, underlying cardiac illnesses. They are more prone to getting the worse diseases. So initially with coronavirus when we see it in state, we see it as upper respiratory infection
6. Do I have anything to worry about in Fort Bend County?
The only thing I think you need to worry about is that there is an international population in Texas. We have a lot of travelers, so wherever these cases are being isolated in the states there has been some sort of history of travel to Wuhan, China or a close proximity of it. So there are international travelers or if you have any of these types of symptoms of fevers, chills, shortness of breath I would not take it lightly I would go get medical attention.
7. What can I do to prevent getting Coronavirus if and when it comes to our part of the country?
The most common precaution is washing hands. If a person is sick, wear a mask around them so that you don’t have the droplets sprayed on you. Those are the standard practices. As of right now, if you know of anyone who has travelled in this area and they are coming down with a sickness. I would avoid meeting them or coming into close confined area unless you were protected with a mask.
8. Are the CDC and Texas Department of Health tracking the virus and its spread?
Absolutely, because they need to know where each individual is coming from and there are airports that are isolated for people traveling from China so they could isolate them, test them to make sure they are already having the symptoms, quarantining them and put them in an isolation room and backtrack to see where they acquired it. At this point in time it seems to be very well controlled and people out of China are giving information on how many people have it, who is infected with it, so that is information is helping us better equip ourselves.
9. How will I know if someone in Fort Bend County has coronavirus?
Most of the information is publically reported so most of the hospitals have this kind of patient they will have to involve the State Health Department as well as the other authorities such as CDC so they can track and find out if it is the coronavirus or if it is another respiratory illness that the patient has. This is still a very naïve and native thing so the majority of the people who come in now we are still worried about influenza because that is still the most common thing that is being spread. Therefore, people need to be tested and once you are tested positive them it will go to the state department.
10. Is the CDC and state health department taking steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in this country and state, and if so what?
Yes, and these are the same steps I mentioned earlier, they are tracking the patients, tracking the people coming out of Wuhan China, tracking their whereabouts and they are making sure to follow them closely to see if they development any kind of symptoms or show any kind of illness. Most of these people are being quarantined to find out if they are having any symptoms or if they have the illness. They are tracking them from the get-go so they are doing a very good job of isolating the patients that have coronavirus. If anyone has any concerns, you are encouraged to go to the hospitals because they are the ones that can test the coronavirus the quickest. Also, urgent cares and most of your private practices are not able to do the test for coronavirus. It is a respiratory panel that they have to order and there is a 24-48 hour turnaround time. So if you have concerns or symptoms or if you have traveled to come into contact with anyone that has traveled to Wuhan. I would urge you to go to the hospital to have yourself tested.