Though the current Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is concerning, you can effectively minimize your risk of catching coronaviruses by following basic anti-infection practices & avoiding contact with infected people.

What Is Wuhan Coronavirus & Should You Be Worried About It?

Wuhan coronavirus (or novel coronavirus) is a respiratory virus that causes fast-moving infections that present with pneumonia-like symptoms [1]. This  outbreak itself, and its progression in China especially, is cause for some concern. Like the SARS coronavirus outbreak and MERS coronavirus outbreak in the past, the Wuhan outbreak poses a potentially serious public health threat, especially if agencies and individuals fail to follow practices to help them avoid catching Wuhan coronavirus [2].

That said, an individual’s risk of contracting Wuhan coronavirus is entirely dependent on exposure; that means that people who are in close-contact with people who have the virus (like the medical staff caring for them) are at an elevated risk of catching it [3]. What’s more, when compared to historical coronavirus outbreaks, the virus is far more contagious (spreading 2.7x and 18.8x faster than SARS and MERS, respectively) [4]. Yet Wuhan coronavirus is also far less likely to be fatal than other virus outbreaks, with just a 2.2% mortality rate vs. SARS’10% and MERS’ 35% mortality rates [4].

Consequently, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the current risk posed to members of the general public is low [2]. What’s more, the most effective practices to avoid catching Wuhan coronavirus involve measures not unlike those you would take to protect yourself from the flu: wash your hands thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoid close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms [5].

The virus Outbreak At A Glance

  • On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of the first cluster of Wuhan coronavirus cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province [6].
  • Though the cause of this novel virus outbreak was originally unknown, public health professionals have since classified the Wuhan coronavirus as a “zoonosis” — a virus that spreads from animals to humans [7].
  • Like SARS, Wuhans virus likely first made this animal-to-human jump in a wet market (an outdoor meat market where live animals, carcasses, and butchered meat are sold in close proximity) in the city of Wuhan [8]. Consequently, one of the first recommendations to protect yourself against Wuhan coronavirus was to avoid meat/seafood markets and make sure to cook meat thoroughly before cooking; though that advice is still good, those actions are not the most important steps you can take to minimize your risk of catching the virus.
  • Since the WHO first became aware of the virus, it has demonstrated a significant capacity for human-to-human transmission even (and especially) when people have so few or such mild symptoms that they are nearly asymptomatic [9]. That means the best way to protect yourself against Wuhan coronavirus is to avoid people with flu-like symptoms and encourage sick coworkers, friends, and employees to stay home.
  • Cases of Wuhan coronavirus have shown explosive growth, especially in China, where there are more than 31,000 confirmed cases — nearly 5,000 of which are severe — and 630 people have died [10].

How Different Agencies Are Responding To & Recommending You Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus

  • The WHO declared a Global Health Emergency, the US declared a public health emergency, and many countries have enacted unprecedented travel bans against China and China-related travelers [11, 12, 13].
  • Public health agencies in China and abroad are working to minimize the spread of the virus by enforcing quarantines and face mask policies. They are also using body heat scanners to determine whether people — especially those trying to leave China or enter other countries — are showing Wuhan coronavirus-like symptoms [14]. At least one person has admittedly used fever-reducing medication to sneak by the body heat scanners [15]. Also, wearing a face mask is not an effective way to minimize your risk of catching coronaviruses; though infected people should wear them to prevent spreading it.
  • With these measures in place, outside of China, fewer than 100 cases have been identified across 24 countries, and one person has died [See a regularly updated case tracking map here]. This statistic illustrates that the standard recommendations to minimize your risk of catching coronaviruses — especially avoiding prolonged close contact with sick people — do help people avoid catching Wuhan coronavirus.
  • Researchers in the US are already developing a vaccine for the virus, which they hope to have ready for human use by early summer 2020 [16]. Until then, the best way to protect yourself against Wuhan coronavirus is to continue following the CDC’s recommended hand-washing, cough-covering, and illness-avoidance strategies.

Using What We Know To Develop Best-Practices To Avoid Catching Coronavirus

We also know that the virus’s incubation period (how long it takes for an infected person to begin showing symptoms) is 2 to14 days [17]. Moreover, Wuhan coronavirus appears to follow a flu-like infection/incubation/transmission process; that is, it spreads most rapidly when healthy people contract the virus but do not develop severe enough symptoms for them to feel the need to stay home [9]. This behavior undermines everyone else’s efforts to avoid catching the virus, so staying home (and seeking medical care) if you are sick and encouraging others to do the same is an essential practice for protecting yourself (and everyone else) from Wuhan Coronavirus.

We also know that despite the incredibly high transmission rates in this coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan coronavirus cannot survive in the environment for long at all — it does not even linger in the air around an infected person like many viruses [18]. That means there is little risk of catching Wuhan coronavirus from surfaces that have been handled by an infected person; you do not need to protect yourself against Wuhan coronavirus by refusing mail processed through China. Similarly, you should not engage in unproven practices that promise to minimize your risk of catching coronaviruses. Mineral oils, mouthwash and nasal rinses, or eating garlic or algae will not help you avoid catching the virus [18]. Appropriately using Lysol products, however, will help minimize your risk of catching coronaviruses, including Wuhan coronavirus [19].

Contact us today regarding health care for you and your family.

[fusion_accordion border_size=”2″ icon_size=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility”][fusion_toggle title=”Sources:” open=”no”]