As global infections soar, here’s how the coronavirus has spread so rapidly
Quentin Fottrell

The coronavirus, a pneumonia-causing illness that infects the respiratory tract and appears to have original in the Central Chinese city of Wuhan, is now responsible for 170 deaths in China and 7,711 cases worldwide, according to Chinese officials and official data from the World Health Organization.

It has infected people in Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, France, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, Macao, Tibet and Nepal. Six cases have been confirmed in the U.S., U.S health officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that it has confirmed the first case of person-to-person spread of coronavirus in Illinois. There are now 21 people under investigation in Illinois and 165 in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Local media reports have put the infection tally at over 8,000. Adding to the confusion, The Wall Street Journal reported that some families have voiced their concern and frustration that their relatives cause of death was marked as “severe pneumonia” or “viral pneumonia” on their death certificates. With human-to-human contagion now confirmed, sneeze or touching the same hand rail or doorknob may be enough to catch the virus, just like the flu.

The outbreak has spread rapidly in over the last seven days. It is believed to have originated in Wuhan, likely at a food market. On Sunday, Zhou Xianwang, the Mayor of Wuhan, said that 5 million people had left the city before travel restrictions were imposed ahead of the Chinese New Year. China also said that it will refurbish and re-open the Xiaotangshan Hospital on the outskirts of Beijing, built during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.

Also see: Coronavirus is less deadly than SARS — but that may explain why it’s so contagious

In an effort to stem the spread of the virus from its suspected origin, transport bans were instituted in 16 cities with a combined population of 50 million people. Officials in Wuhan, a city with 11 million residents, said they had temporarily closed the area’s outgoing airport and railway stations, and suspend all public transport. Long-distance trains and buses from Huanggang, a neighboring city with 7.5 million people, stopped running indefinitely last Friday.

Human intervention, or lack thereof, may also have been a factor. More than half-a-dozen doctors first discussed the threat of a potential coronavirus outbreak in early December only to be silenced by the local Communist Party, according to some critics of the government.

Yaxue Cao, founder and editor of the political pressure group, said a Wuhan doctor posted in a WeChat group to say there were 7 cases of SARS connected to the seafood market. He was then scolded by the party disciplinary office, and forced to retract that, Cao said.

“From the same report, we learned that Wuhan health authorities were having overnight meetings about the new “SARS” at end of December,” Cao posted on Jan. 27. “Earlier today. the Wuhan mayor said he was not ‘authorized’ to publicize the epidemic until Jan. 20.”

The spread was helped by China’s Lunar New Year holiday this month. Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang said 5 million people had left the city before travel restrictions were imposed ahead of the Chinese New Year. Ma Xiaowei, the director of China’s National Health Commission, said that the virus had an incubation period of 10 to 14 days.

“People unfamiliar with China have trouble understanding the immense travel phenomenon that occurs during Lunar New Year, when, over a one-month period, some 3 billion people are on the move, many returning to their home towns and regions but others vacationing,” Tanner Brown, a Beijing-based journalist, wrote for MarketWatch. “Peak travel occurs this week.”

Another reason for the rapid spread: While some people are canceling travel plans in China and opting to stay home over the holiday period, others may not yet have experienced the worst of the symptoms, believe themselves to be well enough to travel and/or could be reluctant to pay up to $400 to change a flight — especially if they believe they merely have a common cold. In fact, previous iterations of the coronavirus are very similar to a common cold.

People may not know they’re carrying the virus, and doctors don’t yet know how long it takes to develop. Symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and a general feeling of being unwell, according to the CDC.

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Ma Xiaowei, the director of China’s National Health Commission, said that the virus had an incubation period of 10 to 14 days, during which the virus can be contagious but the patients does not display symptoms. That allows the virus to be passed along from person to person.

“From observations, the virus is capable of transmission even during incubation period,” Ma told a news conference, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. “Some patients have normal temperatures and there are many milder cases. There are hidden carriers.”

But more severe coronaviruses can become more serious and progress to pneumonia. “Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis,” it added. “This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults. Two other human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV have been known to frequently cause severe symptoms.”

Nasty bugs like coronaviruses can last for days on objects. The sinister sounding Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (more commonly known as MRSA) lasted longest (168 hours) on material from a seat-back pocket while the bacteria Escherichia coli O157:H7 (also known as E.coli, which can cause kidney problems) survived longest (96 hours) on the material from the armrest of planes, according to research presented in 2014 to the American Society for Microbiology.

In an attempt to remain competitive, airlines have decreased their turnaround times in recent years. Many budget airlines have reduced turnaround times to 25 minutes by removing the seat pockets. Other airlines have managed to have long-haul turnaround times of 90 minutes. Not only do planes get new plane load of passengers, they often get a completely different crew. Deep cleans are not always possible during such turnarounds, which could aid in the transmission of the coronavirus.

After flying, most people take public transport. You may avoid stainless steel poles on subways and buses, but do you touch turnstiles and ticket machines? They are arguably touched by even more people, says Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. Commuters are 6 times more likely to develop an acute respiratory infection if they traveled recently by bus or tram, a 2011 published in the BMC Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded.

What can you do? Aisle seats will be touched most often by other people as they’re trying to find their own, Gerba says. In 2008, members of a tour group experienced diarrhea and vomiting in an airplane flight from Boston to Los Angeles. Other passengers who suffered secondary infections were either sitting next to those infected — or unsuspecting passengers seated in aisle seats, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

We may move away if we see someone sneeze at the water cooler or on a train, but touching objects is a faster way to transmit viruses, Gerba says. He recommends using hand sanitizers or disinfectant wipes, particularly at the office where people may be reluctant to stay home if they’re sick. One 2014 study, presented at an American Society for Microbiology meeting in Washington, D.C., office workers pick up 30% to 50% of the organisms that are left on surfaces.

A new study published in the Lancet looking at five of six family members with the virus said the it’s spreading from person to person, rather than exclusively from animals or infected food, and can be transmitted in social, family and even hospital environments. It also now being spread by people who have not been to Wuhan. “This is a novel coronavirus, which is closest to the bat severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-related coronaviruses found in Chinese horseshoe bats.”

What are you feeding your pets? Vets warn against popular diet trend
What are you feeding your pets? Vets warn against popular diet trend
By: Sophia Choi Updated: January 29, 2020 – 7:02 PM
4-5 minutes

ATLANTA — If you have a dog, veterinarians say what they are eating could kill them. Veterinarians are seeing heart failure in some dogs fed a grain-free diet.

Their hearts become so enlarged they can no longer normally pump. That causes all kinds of problems, including fluid in the lungs. That is what happened to Bailey, a dog who died just weeks after getting diagnosed.

“It’s just too soon to lose a pet over dog food,” said Gina Perry, who is still mourning the death of her 6- year-old dog, Bailey.

The Morningside mother got Bailey when she was just a pup, 8 weeks old. “Bailey, she was a German shorthaired pointer, really, really active, loved to swim, run, go on hikes,” Perry said.

But Bailey suddenly got lethargic in May 2019. She started coughing after eating grain-free foods for two years.

“They did an X-ray and saw that her heart was really enlarged, filling up almost her whole chest cavity,” said Perry.

A veterinarian diagnosed Bailey with dilated cardiomyopathy linked to grain-free food.

DCM is something Dr. Jacqueline Horner is now watching out for at Pharr Road Animal Hospital in Buckhead.

“I always explain this to my clients. If you think about body builders, they build a lot of muscle, and at some point, they lose range of motion. If your muscles get very big, they may not be so flexible. They may not have that full range of motion in their arm. The heart is the same way,” Horner said.

Researchers said there is no direct cause but there is a correlation. “So, we have a correlation, meaning we are seeing an increased number of pets with DCM, dilated cardiomyopathy, and those pets are also eating grain free foods,” said Dr. Horner.

It’s affecting so many pets, it prompted the Food and Drug Administration to start tracking it. Between Jan. 1, 2014, and April 30, 2019, the FDA said veterinarians diagnosed 560 dogs with DMC and of those, 119 died.

Perry made sure to fill out the FDA forms. “I didn’t know about it. I don’t know how many other people don’t know about this issue. I want to get the word out to just save other people and other families from going through what we went through,” Perry said.

A lot of people went grain-free after dogs started dying from tainted wheat gluten from China in 2007. Others did it when they changed their own diets and cut out gluten.

“It started as following the marketing change with our own food,” Horner said. “And it’s important to note that this trend did not originate from veterinarians’ recommendation,” she continued.

Veterinarians said it is boutique brands selling the idea through ads. Antoinette Zavala said that is why she started feeding her dog, Storm grain-free foods. “’Cause I guess I thought they shouldn’t eat grain because of things that I read,” Zavala said.

Perry went for grain-free because she too thought it was better.

“I thought the dog food would be better. It looked better, and I thought it would be healthier for my dog,” Perry said.

Veterinarians recommend sticking to bigger, traditional brands with more regulations and stop feeding grain-free.

“We’re recommending that, No. 1, avoid using grain-free foods,” Horner said.

“You just feel guilty. I mean, it’s like, you’re trying to do something great for your dog, feeding them better dog food, or you think it’s better, and you’re basically forcing it on them. They don’t have a choice, so it’s really kind of on you that you did that,” Perry said.

If you’re feeding your dog grain-free, don’t stop cold turkey. Veterinarians said it should be a gradual process, taking at least a week or so. Your best bet is to check with your pet’s veterinarian.

DCM affects cats, too. The FDA reported five cats died from DCM linked to grain-free food.

The FDA has received at least 10 reports of DCM involving the following pet food brands: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro and Rachel Ray Nutrish.

© 2020 © 2020 Cox Media Group

What is the new coronavirus? Here’s what we know about it.
Erika Edwards

The new virus is called 2019-nCoV. It’s unclear how easily it spreads from person to person, but the CDC recommends that anyone who may have been exposed to the illness monitor themselves for 14 days after close contact with an infected person.

Symptoms to watch for include fever, cough, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, body aches, sore throat or vomiting and diarrhea.

How does the new coronavirus spread?

Researchers are still learning precisely how the new virus spreads from person to person.

“While we do not know all of the mechanisms of spread of the epidemic so far, there is likely spread by droplets and contaminated surfaces, and possible airborne [spread], similar to SARS,” Dr. Mark Denison, a virologist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said.

Coronaviruses in general are spread through close contact — a range of about 3 to 6 feet. The virus is primarily spread through a sick person coughing or sneezing on someone, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, a health officer in Washington state.

A person could also become infected through contact with the virus particles on a surface, though it’s unknown how long the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces outside of the body. If an infected person sneezes or coughs onto a surface, such as a countertop or doorknob, and another person touches that surface and then rubs his or her eyes or nose, for example, the latter may get sick.

The SARS virus was also spread through feces. Denison suggested the same spreading mechanism may be found in the new virus, but it’s too early to know for sure.

Can coronavirus be spread through the mail or through goods imported from China?

It’s extremely unlikely. While more needs to be learned about how this particular virus works, coronaviruses typically don’t live very long on surfaces, and are very unlikely to survive over a period of days or weeks when an item is being shipped.

“There is no evidence to support transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States associated with imported goods,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a call with journalists.

Is the coronavirus likely to spread in areas in the U.S. with confirmed cases?

So far, none of the confirmed coronavirus patients in the U.S. has infected anyone else in this country. Dozens of their close contacts are being closely monitored for at least 14 days, with daily checks for fever and cough. Health officials continue to believe the risk for sustained human-to-human transmission from these cases is quite low.

A bigger viral risk in those cities (and everywhere else in the country) is the flu. The CDC estimates there have been 15 million flu cases so far this season nationwide, with 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 flu deaths, including 54 children.

“Our influenza problem is large,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told NBC News. “Our coronavirus problem — very small and so far contained.”

How long does it take for someone to get sick?

The new coronavirus’s incubation period — meaning the time it takes from a person being infected with the virus to when they start showing symptoms — is still unknown.

However, public health experts are working under the assumption that the incubation period is about 14 days. It’s unclear whether a person is contagious during the incubation period.
Does a face mask protect you from coronavirus?

The CDC recommends that patients with the coronavirus wear a face mask to protect others around them, or, if the patient cannot wear a face mask, others should if they are in the same room together.

Caregivers or people living in the same house as someone who is sick should also wear disposable face masks, along with gloves and disposable gowns, when coming into contact with the patient’s bodily fluids.

For health care workers in contact with coronavirus patients, the CDC recommends a more specialized type of mask — one that is individually fitted to a person’s face to create a seal and that filters out 95 percent of particles that at least 0.3 microns in diameters. (A micron is 1/1,000th of a millimeter.) This type of mask is called N95.

At this time, the size of the coronavirus particles is unknown. The SARS virus was 0.1 microns in diameter.

How can I prevent coronavirus?

One of the simplest prevention measures a person can take is proper hand-washing.

The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water before eating, after using the bathroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and before and after caring for a sick friend or a family member.

The most effective way to clean hands is to wet them with clean water, then apply soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds, before rinsing and drying with a clean towel.
Is it SARS?

No. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is a type of coronavirus that was first reported in Asia in February, 2003.

Over the following months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries, sickening 8,098 people worldwide, killing 774.

However, 2019-nCoV is a different strain. It’s unknown at this point if the new virus is as severe or as contagious as SARS. While some patients in China have had serious illness, other patients have had milder illness and been discharged.
Is there a coronavirus vaccine?

There is no specific treatment for the new virus, and no vaccine to prevent it. The National Institutes of Health confirmed Tuesday it’s in the “very preliminary stages” of research to develop a vaccine, but declined to provide details.

In addition, the drug company Regeneron is in the early stages of work on a potential treatment for this coronavirus. The company previously developed a similar treatment for Ebola.
Do disinfectants kill the coronavirus?

Yes, they can. The CDC suggests that anyone exposed to an infected patient clean all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables.

Cleaning agents can include a household disinfectant with a label that says “EPA-approved,” according to the CDC. A homemade version can be made, using one tablespoon of bleach to one quart of water.

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