Coronavirus crosses borders into United States

The World Health Organization officially declared a public health emergency following the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus from China to multiple other countries on Thursday, Jan. 30. 

The WHO’s declaration came following the appearance of clear human-to-human transmission in several countries including the United States, according to a Jan. 30 article published by the New York Times.  

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses as mild as the common cold to an ailment as severe as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, according to the WHO. The strand that is currently making headlines is the novel coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV, which stands for 2019 novel coronavirus. 

Before December 2019, 2019-nCoV had not previously been recognized in humans. Coronaviruses originate in animals, and typically are non-transferable to humans, according to a Jan. 24 article published by NPR. However, coronaviruses can occasionally mutate and transmit from animals to humans. 

The 2019 novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China. In December 2019, several cases of confirmed pneumonia were reported to the WHO. Of those suffering from the disease, many had recently been in contact with a large seafood and meat market in Wuhan, according to a Jan. 25 article published by Harvard Medical School.  

There have been at least  8,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in mainland China. Of those 8,000 cases, at least 170 have resulted in death, and as of Wednesday, Jan. 29, there have been 91 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in countries other than China. 

NBC News reports that there have also been confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, France, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Germany, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Canada.

The CDC has confirmed five cases of the coronavirus in the United States. The coronavirus has been confirmed in California, Washington, Arizona and Illinois. The U.S. has had a total of 165 patients tested for the virus. Of those patients, 68 have tested negative and the other 92 are still pending results. 

The first human-to-human transmission of 2019-nCoV occurred within the United States on Thursday, Jan. 30. The virus was transmitted from a woman who had recently traveled to China for work to her husband in Chicago, resulting in the sixth confirmed case of 2019-nCoV in the United States, according to NPR. 

Illinois is now investigating 21 other possible cases, according to NPR. However, Director of the CDC Robert Redfield said “the immediate risk to the American public is low.” 

Additionally, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Ngozi Ezike said the transmission was “between two very close contacts, a wife and a husband,” and “the virus is not spreading widely across the community.” 

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in Pennsylvania or areas surrounding Allegheny’s campus. However, two students at Miami University in Miami, Ohio, are under investigation as possibly having the coronavirus, according to a Jan. 28 article published by WBNS. 

Ohio, New York and Virginia have all had government officials tweet that they have taken samples and have suspected cases of 2019-nCoV within their states, according to Professor of Biology and Global Health Studies Becky Dawson. 

“I’m assuming Pennsylvania just isn’t tweeting,” Dawson said. “There is no way. We have two major international airports. My guess is (2019-nCoV) is here.” 

Even though 2019-nCoV may be present in Pennsylvania, Dawson does not feel that students should be in a state of fear. 

“I don’t think that there is any reason to be concerned,” Dawson said. “That said, we have person-to-person transmission, and things are increasing exponentially.” 

The WHO reports that common signs of the coronavirus include fever, cough, shortness of breath — severe cases of the virus can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and death. 

In an email, President of Allegheny College Hilary Link revealed that college administrators recently held a meeting with Meadville Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer Denise Johnson to create a plan in case the coronavirus becomes present on Allegheny’s campus.

Additionally, Link included a list of ways for the campus community to protect themselves against the virus — wash hands with soap and water; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue; and disinfect frequently touched objects, like cell phones, the email read. 

“I am more concerned with influenza at this point,” Dawson said. “(Influenza) is spreading way more rapidly.”