News of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, is fast-moving. International and local public health authorities are trying to get the epidemic under control, but have been careful not to call it a pandemic.
As of Feb. 12, more than 60,000 people have been infected with the virus, which is related to SARS and MERS, and more than 1,300 people have died, primarily in mainland China. It’s still unclear exactly how contagious and deadly this strain is, but based on available data, experts estimate the case fatality rate is about 2 percent.
Here are some of the biggest developments relevant to healthcare professionals from the past week.
The novel coronavirus has an official name: COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization announced the disease’s official name is COVID-19. It stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019 and unlike MERS, it deliberately doesn’t reference Wuhan, where it seemingly originated. Explaining the decision, WHO Director-General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing … It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”
CDC tests distributed internationally and within the U.S. may be faulty.
Until several days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was the only U.S. organization able to test for the presence of the virus. Last week, the agency shipped roughly 200 tests to domestic facilities and 200 more to 30 countries. On Wednesday, the CDC announced the kits “have flaws and do not work properly,” per The New York Times.
As a result, states will have to continue to ship samples to the CDC. The agency is working to distribute more accurate tests as quickly as possible. Learn the protocol for shipping tests to the CDC.
The U.S. has its thirteenth coronavirus case.
The individual lives in California and was in quarantine after travel to Wuhan, China. In total, 11 of the U.S. cases occurred in patients who’d recently traveled to China. The remaining two came from close contact with an infected patient, Medscape reports. States with active cases of COVID-19 include: Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin.
Public health officials have said the current threat in the U.S. is still low, and at this time, there is no need to wear personal, protective equipment outside healthcare settings. The current infection control guidelines, per the CDC, recommend healthcare workers wear PPE when dealing with patients under investigation. Infected patients and PUIs should be kept in isolation.
There is no evidence at this time that the virus passes from mother to fetus.
A study published Wednesday in The Lancet came to this conclusion. The observational researched looked at nine Wuhan-based women in their third trimesters with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Their symptoms were similar to those seen in non-pregnant people: sore throat, fever and cough. (For context, pregnant women who developed SARS and H1N1 did experience worse symptoms, CNN reports.)
After testing amniotic fluid and cord blood, and conducting neonatal throat swabs at birth, researchers found the babies did not contract the virus. That said, all of the infants were born via Cesarean sections, so it’s unclear if passing through the vaginal canal could’ve affected the findings.
The researchers presented outstanding concerns, as well. For example, it’s unclear whether babies infected after birth experience more severe illness — or if the risk to fetuses is different if the mother is infected in the first or second trimester of pregnancy.
Diagnostic tools have expanded and so have cases and deaths, as a result.
On Wednesday, Chinese health officials announced the country had its lowest number of new infections, 2,015, within the past two weeks. In response to the news, WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus said, “This outbreak could still go in any direction,” adding that “extreme caution” is still necessary, according to BBC.
Thursday morning in China, 15,000 cases and 242 deaths were recorded in Hubei province, home to Wuhan, after authorities expanded diagnostic processes. Previously, only test results were the metric, but the new stats include diagnoses made by experienced providers.
Amid fluctuating data, Ghebreyesus has said it’s “way too early to predict when the outbreak will subside,” BBC reports. “This outbreak could still go in any direction,” Ghebreyesus added.
For more information on identifying and treating COVID-19, see Florence Health’s complete guide.