The Coronavirus Global Emergency/Possible Pandemic: What You Should Know

By: Oluwatosin Goje, MDTaryn Smith, MD • Posted on February 03, 2020 • Updated February 26, 2020

The Coronavirus Global Emergency/Possible Pandemic: What You Should Know The Coronavirus Global Emergency/Possible Pandemic: What You Should Know

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Or COVID-19 is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in humans. The first identified outbreak occurred in early December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Since that time the virus has affected thousands globally.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that typically cause mild respiratory infections like the common cold. There are at least two strains of coronavirus known to cause serious disease or death in humans:

  1. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
  2. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV)
  3. Novel 2019-nCoV

Coronaviruses are very common among various animal species, including:

  • Cats
  • Bats
  • Cattle
  • Camels

Animal coronaviruses, in rare instances, can be transmitted to humans. Such was the case with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. It was reported that the initial 2019-nCoV outbreak was linked to an animal and the seafood market, suggesting animal to person spread but this is not clear. However, several confirmed infected individuals had no contact with animals suggesting there is person to person transmission. The virus appears to be very infectious and may be very serious in many, however the influenza virus causes many more deaths.


It is important for all those who have not been vaccinated against influenza to get vaccinated, as the flu can cause so much more morbidity and mortality than this new virus. There are anti-viral therapies that can treat influenza.

How Coronavirus Spreads

Person to person transmission usually occurs

  • Via close contact of about 6 feet or less
  • After contact with respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing
  • During the time people are the most symptomatic or sick

As of now it is not clear if the 2019-nCoV can be spread by an infected person who has no symptoms or if transmission can occur by simply touching objects handled by an infected individual.

Confirmed Cases

United States

As of February 24, 2020, several hundred individuals have been tested for the virus in the United States. There have been 53 confirmed cases in the United States including cases in California, Illinois, Arizona and Washington state. The US government has suspended the entry of foreign nationals with a history of travel to China within the last several weeks.


According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control as of February 24, 2020 there have been over 80,000 cases reported globally. Of the confirmed cases, there have been 2,699 deaths from the 2019-nCoV (also know. As COVID-19) most in China, although the reported death rates are expected to rise and have been reported in other countries but no deaths have been reported in the US.

Countries where the Coronavirus has been Reported

  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • Malaysia
  • Republic of Korea
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • Nepal
  • The Philippines
  • India
  • Sri Lanka
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Finland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Australia

Coronavirus Symptoms and Complications

Symptoms of 2019-nCoV appear to include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

Previous coronaviruses have been known to cause mild to serious illness. At this time it is unclear how serious an infection with 2019-nCoV can become. It is believed that infection can present with mild respiratory symptoms that progress to pneumonia later in the disease course. Individuals with a compromised immune system and the elderly are at a greater risk of serious illness if infected with 2019-nCoV.

Prevent the Spread of the Virus

  1. Frequently cleaning hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable clean hands using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a minimal alcohol content of 60%.
  2. Avoid close contact with those who are experiencing symptoms of a viral illness.
  3. Do not touch mucous membranes (eyes, mouth and nose) with unclean hands.

If you feel sick

  1. Cover your sneeze or cough with tissue and avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands. Discard all tissues in the trash.
  2. Clean hands regularly and disinfect items and services that have frequently been touched.
  3. Avoid close contact with others and stay home from work/school.
  4. Wear a face mask if close contact with others cannot be avoided.

Coronavirus Treatment Options

Treatment for 2019-nCoV is geared toward relieving symptoms, including controlling fever, cough, congestion and increasing fluid intake to avoid dehydration. There are no available coronavirus vaccines or specific treatment modalities that are curative however vaccine trials and anti-viral studies are underway.

If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms listed above seek medical attention immediately. If you have traveled to China within the last 3 weeks or any other area with reported outbreaks and you are experiencing symptoms of 2019-nCoV, please contact your healthcare clinician via phone or electronically. Your health care clinician can instruct you on how to receive care while minimizing risk and exposure to others. This is an evolving investigation and new evidence/recommendations may present daily.

Stay up-to-date about the state of the Novel Coronavirus

Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!

-Oluwatosin Goje, MD and Taryn Smith, MD, NCMP

Oluwatosin Goje, who leads the Reproductive Infectious Diseases Program at Cleveland Clinic, is an Obstetrician Gynecologist fellowship-trained in Infectious Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

Dr. Taryn Smith is a Fellow in the Cleveland Clinic Specialized Women's Health Fellowship Program and will be joining the staff at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville in the fall 2020..

Related Articles