The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and local health officials statewide are monitoring developments surrounding the respiratory outbreak first detected in Wuhan, China caused by a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This is a rapidly evolving situation. To provide the latest local information and updates to Virginians, VDH has developed a novel coronavirus webpage. This webpage provides important information about the outbreak and offers resources for healthcare providers.
Common coronaviruses can cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness, like the common cold. Public health officials are still learning about 2019-CoV and how it affects people. Some people who have become ill with 2019-CoV have had mild symptoms. Others have had more severe illness, including some deaths.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and trouble breathing, and can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure. Although 2019-nCoV is spreading between people in parts of Asia, scientists do not yet know how easily it spreads. Closely related viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) mainly spread from person-to-person through close contact or respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
VDH is encouraging health care providers to ask patients about recent international travel and consider 2019-nCoV infection in patients who have traveled to Wuhan, China within 14 days of the onset of symptoms, including fever and respiratory symptoms. When potential cases are reported, laboratory samples are collected and submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. These cases are called Patients Under Investigation.
Currently Virginia is investigating three residents in the central (2) and northern (1) regions of Virginia who meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria for 2019-nCoV. Beginning Jan. 27, VDH will post the number of Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) who meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria for 2019-nCoV testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the VDH novel coronavirus webpage. To protect patient confidentiality, specific details about these patients will not be provided. Public health is working closely with these patients and anyone who was in close contact to prevent the spread of illness.
VDH is also reminding Virginians that there are steps everyone should take to prevent respiratory illness – especially with the influenza (flu) and respiratory disease season underway in Virginia. These include getting a flu vaccine, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, staying home when sick, and taking flu antivirals as prescribed.
VDH recommends travelers to China protect themselves by avoiding contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat). CDC has issued a Travel Warning to avoid nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan. CDC has also issued a Travel Watch to practice usual precautions for China. (See https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/china#travel-notices.)
For more information on the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/.