A Q&A with Huntington Hospital’s Kimberly Shriner, MD, FACP, Infectious Disease Specialist.
What is this new virus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe disease such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (abbreviated to nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
What do we know so far?
The novel coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV) is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness that began in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. There is ongoing spread of the virus in that region and beyond. Additional cases have been identified in a growing number of international locations, including in the United States. There are ongoing investigations to learn more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has implemented enhanced screening at roughly twenty airports in the US, including New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Atlanta (ATL), and Chicago (ORD).
What is Huntington Hospital doing?
As with any infectious disease, we are following CDC guidelines for screening and treatment. As of today, Huntington Hospital has not treated any patients identified as having 2019-nCoV. We are screening all patients entering our facility for signs and symptoms of communicable diseases and implementing infection prevention and control practices to protect our patients, visitors, and staff .
Should I be worried at this point?
Although we are still learning about this virus, we know from previous respiratory illness outbreaks that vigilance, good infection control measures and education about the virus are effective ways to prevent transmission. Upper respiratory illnesses are common during the winter and often resolve with just supportive measures. This virus is still very rare in the United States. As with any respiratory illness, prolonged fever, severe shortness of breath, chest pain or profound weakness warrant a call to your doctor.
What can I do to stay healthy?
Everyone in the community should continue to follow basic infection prevention practices – including cleaning hands with soap and water or alcohol based hand rub, covering your cough, and avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms. If you have specific health concerns, contact your primary care doctor. The CDC website, www.cdc.gov provides up-to-date, fact-based information that is helpful for staying informed about this virus and other health concerns.