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Sarah Stultz: New coronavirus still has many unknowns

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

 

I hadn’t followed the news closely about the new coronavirus until Sunday morning when I received a group text message from my sister, who lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two children.

Officials announced that a Toronto hospital on Saturday had a confirmed case of the deadly virus that originated in Wuhan, China. The person had flown from Wuhan, China, to Guangzhou, China, and then on to Toronto on Thursday.

Because of it, my sister told us they would only be having the first of two hours of church and that changes had been made within the congregation to minimize contact with each other. People were encouraged not to shake hands or give hugs when seeing friends or neighbors and each individual would be passed our weekly Sacrament instead of passing a tray along each pew.

She hadn’t yet heard of any precautionary efforts that would take place at her children’s schools.

According to the Associated Press, the virus had killed 56 people as of Sunday morning in China and has since spread worldwide.

Other cases have been reported in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France and Australia.

Two suspected cases were reported in Minnesota, but those were found to be negative for the virus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coronaviruses cause diseases ranging from the common cold to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

According to the agency, evidence shows this virus was likely spread from animal to person because of an initial link among many of the patients at the start of the outbreak to the seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China.

The CDC states coronaviruses are common in different species of animals, but rarely animal coronaviruses infect people. Now, Chinese officials have reported that virus is being spread from person to person in that country, likely from respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It remains unknown how easily the virus spreads.

As we look to find out more about the transmission of this virus, keep in mind that you can protect yourself from it the same way you would a cold or other sickness: through washing your hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; and avoiding contact with others who are sick.

It’s too soon to tell how widespread this virus may become.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.