Coronavirus: Frankly Speaking Special Update (2/3/20)
Listen to Dr. Frank Domino provide a timely update regarding the recent Coronavirus outbreak, and provide resources in order to get the most up-to-date information.
Dr. Frank Domino:
Good morning. This is Frank Domino, Professor in Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. And thank you for joining me today on this brief Frankly Speaking About Family Medicine special edition on the 2019 coronavirus that is capturing the world's attention. This virus recently emerged as a respiratory infection in Wuhan city, in the Hubei province of China. As you know, it causes respiratory symptoms that can potentially lead to death, and it's similar to the MERS and SARS viruses of the last two decades.
The symptoms of this virus are similar to those we see with influenza, fever, cough and shortness of breath. And this virus does have the potential to lead to death. So far, there have been about 2000 confirmed cases in the world that have been documented. The vast majority of which have been in China. And so far, there have been 56 deaths. Patients may be calling with questions about this virus and apprehensions and fears. To determine if a patient is at high risk, the CDC recommends that if the patient has fever, cough, shortness of breath, and exposure to either being in China or someone who was recently in China, they should be referred to a site, typically a tertiary care emergency room that has a negative pressure isolation room. There they'll be swabbed in their nasal pharynx, as well as their oral pharynx and have other testing done.
The CDC recommends you make this referral with great caution because you don't want potentially ill patients exposing others as well. Only the CDC is currently providing the testing and we don't wish their overwhelm their system. If you have any questions about whether a patient should be tested, the CDC recommends you call them at 770-488-7100. Regarding treatment, a number of antivirals have been suggested, none of which have been proven effective so far. A monoclonal antibody is being developed and the US is developing a vaccine against the virus, but that won't be available until late spring.
Lastly, I think we need to remind patients that although this virus is very concerning, the risk is extremely small to those living in the US. On the other hand, in the US for this flu season, there've been at least 15 million illnesses that have occurred. The World Health Organization estimates that there'll be five million cases of severe flu this season with up to 650,000 deaths attributable to it. We should encourage patients who are anxious and concerned about this new coronavirus to use good hand washing techniques, avoid coughing on each other, and to recognize that the risk from influenza is far greater and that they should always need a flu shot. Thanks for listening this morning and I'll be back in touch soon when I have more information to share.