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The resurgence of the modern-day plague: Coronavirus update

With only one month into 2020, which was claimed to be the year of bouncing back from climate change and the Trump administration, the year has taken an unexpected turn with reports of people mysteriously collapsing in China. The modern-day plague, a title that was given by various Twitter users, has now come to known as the Coronavirus.

What Started it?

While the origins of earlier strands of Coronavirus affect animals, such as camels and bats, research is showing that the strand that is currently affecting humans is a mutation.

“The first known cases in December 2019 were traced to an animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan and are believed to have come from contact with live animals that were infected,” according to an article from NPR.

What are the symptoms?

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that “the virus causes fever as well as respiratory symptoms: dry cough, difficulty breathing. It can also cause diarrhea and body aches. Symptoms in severe cases include pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.”

The symptoms of this infection might appear the same as those for a cold or flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s  (CDC) guidelines for healthcare providers suggest screening only people who have recently traveled to Wuhan or who have had recent contact with someone who is currently infected.

Health officials with the WHO and CDC believe the virus is being passed from person to person via the exchange of fluids from the respiratory system. The belief that it is being spread similarly to the spread of the flu is because many cases have been observed within families who have been in contact with a person carrying the virus.

Who is affected?

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee on the Coronavirus said in a Jan. 22 news conference that nearly three-quarters of cases have been in people over age 40, and that within cases involving death people have had previous health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. While many who have become affected are over the age of 40, there are confirmed cases in healthy, young individuals.

Currently, 18 countries have confirmed cases. A report from China’s National Health Commission reported more than 9,000 cases as of Jan. 30, including 213 deaths. At least 126 other cases have been identified within the U.S., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

What cases are in the United States?

While China’s Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control has labeled Coronavirus as “highly infectious,” the CDC has labeled the risk for the general American public as “low.” As of Jan. 29 five U.S. cases have been reported. The first U.S. case was reported on Jan. 21, in a man who traveled to China and began experiencing symptoms a few days after returning home to Seattle on Jan. 15. The second case, a woman in Chicago, was confirmed Jan. 24. Two cases have been confirmed in California and one in Arizona.

The confirmed cases in California are in no close proximity to Mills, both coming from southern California—Orange County and Los Angeles County. On Jan. 30 President Hillman issued a statement via email addressing the fear of these recent cases in California and the screening for the virus at the San Francisco International Airport.

“Mills continually monitors health and safety issues for potential impacts to the campus community. Should a case be identified here or nearby, Mills will work with local authorities and advise the campus immediately,” President Hillam’s email reports.

What can be done?

Currently, there are no virus-specific treatments nor any vaccine. The CDC reports preventative measures such as regularly washing your hands, wearing a face mask in crowded areas and other proactive ways of fighting a common cold and flu.

Take away?

Overall, the Coronavirus shows a low threat for Mills. And with the CDC, WHO and other health organizations working around the clock to ensure the safety of the public, I have high hope that by taking preventative measures and by lessening traveling that we should be fine.

To learn more and get updates visit, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, and UC Berkeley’s health advisory.