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China says coronavirus can spread before symptoms show calling into question US containment strategy

Posted at 5:49 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 17:53:12-05

(WXYZ) — The Wuhan coronavirus may spread by people who don’t even know they have it yet. The warning comes from China's health minister Ma Xiaowei who says the virus is contagious before any symptoms appear.

What does that mean for Americans and can it be contained here in the US?

There are at least 5 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in four states. All of these people had been to Wuhan before returning back to the US.

Now, these confirmed cases are not here in Michigan. There are two reported cases in California: one in Los Angeles County and the other in Orange County. And there is one confirmed case in Chicago, Arizona and Washington state. So far no one is reported in serious condition which is really good news.

Question: Is the virus still considered to be low risk for Americans, especially with the news it can be spread when you’re not feeling symptoms?

Yes, the CDC is maintaining that stance, but there is still a lot we need to learn about this virus. Including confirming that it really has the potential to spread before a person is symptomatic.

Even though China's health minister made that statement, the CDC doesn’t have clear evidence to support this information. But I can assure you that they’re looking into this. Because if it’s true, it could make the spread of this virus harder to contain.

Now on the plus side, scientists have said that this virus is genetically similar to the SARS variant. And SARS was primarily spread when an infected person showed symptoms and by close person-to-person contact. But, let me be honest, this is an evolving outbreak. And we know that other viruses are infectious before symptoms appear, like the measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. So we can’t rule anything out just yet.

The CDC does predict that they’ll be more coronavirus cases here in the US. Right now they are monitoring at least 100 people across 26 states.

On the plus side, 32 people who thought they might have the new coronavirus, did not. 73 are still waiting for their results.

Regarding containment, those who are being monitored are asked to remain out of the public while they await results. Travelers from Wuhan are still being screened at several airports. And the CDC would like everyone to follow flu season protocol which I have said many times like a broken record: Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, avoid people who are sick, and stay home if you’re ill.