Novel coronavirus, or nCoV, is an upper-respiratory infection that originated in Wuhan, China, with victims of the virus primarily located in China.
Coronavirus itself is not a new type of illness, but rather a part of a large family of illnesses found in both humans and animals. Diseases under this category also include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. The virus currently affecting China and other countries is a new strain or “novel” strain, with the full name 2019-nCoV, as it was first reported in December of 2019, according to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC.
NCoV has over 28,060 confirmed cases and 564 deaths, the director of WHO, Tedros Adhanom, said in a press conference on Feb. 6. Outside of China, there are 225 reported cases in 24 countries and one confirmed death in the Philippines.
There are currently 11 cases confirmed in the U.S. and 76 pending. States with confirmed cases are Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin. Alaska has no confirmed or pending cases as of Feb. 7, per the CDC.
Mary Woodring is a family nurse practitioner at the UAA Student Health and Counseling Center. She reassures students concerned about nCoV that Alaska is not among the U.S. states with confirmed cases of the virus.
“The most important thing to know right now is that the virus is not in Alaska currently. We have been in touch with Public Health recently and there are no cases or even suspected cases of coronavirus,” Woodring said.
Brooke Hansen is a political science major at UAA. Despite others’ worries about nCoV, she says she is not overly concerned about coronavirus, as living in Alaska eases her worries.
“I’m not too concerned about [getting nCoV], especially living in a state that has no known cases of the virus,” Hansen said.
Symptoms for novel coronavirus are believed to appear as soon as two days or as long as 14 after exposure, according to the Center for Disease Control. Patients affected with the virus have reported mild to severe respiratory symptoms including a cough, fever and shortness of breath. Travelers that have been to China in the last two weeks are advised to contact a doctor for possible exposure, as advised by the CDC.
There are ways to prevent the further spread of the disease in everyday life, according to Woodring. She stresses that the most basic forms of personal hygiene are the most important ways of preventing nCoV.
“The biggest thing that can protect against this virus, like any infection, is hand washing. Wash with soap and water and try not to rely on hand sanitizer alone. Hand washing will help protect from all viruses and sanitizer will only kill some viruses,” Woodring said.
Because nCoV is a new strain of coronavirus, there is not extensive information on it, according to the CDC.
How the virus is spread from person to person is unknown for certain, but it is believed to be through respiratory droplets, according to Woodring. Microorganisms are formed in droplets when a person coughs, sneezes or talks and others can be exposed to these droplets through close contact. Droplets can also end up on the nose or mouth of another person or inhaled into the lungs.
However, this does not mean that the virus is spread by airborne transmission, or simply breathing the same air as an infected person, Woodring said. She suggests that students take preventative measures when coughing or sneezing to protect themselves from person to person infection.
“If you are coughing and sneezing, make sure that you are using good etiquette to protect others [from droplets]. Make sure you cough and sneeze into your elbow and throw tissues away properly,” Woodring said.
Micheal Murphy is a psychology major at UAA and echoes Hansen’s thoughts on the virus. His concerns are minimal about nCoV and he is confident in Alaska’s ability to handle the disease if it were to surface in the state.
“I do find it mildly concerning, especially since it’s the season for sickness, [but] I’m not too concerned since [Alaskans] are so far from the rest of the U.S.,” Murphy said. “I think that the state would also be on top of it and alert us if a case were to happen.”
“We stay in close contact with Public Health and we would let students know as soon as we are made aware of [tje virus] in the state,” Woodring said.
For more information about nCoV, visit the CDC and WHO through cdc.gov. WHO also releases daily press releases with up to date information on Facebook. In-state information can be found at the State of Alaska site at dhss.alaska.gov.
For concerns at UAA about the novel coronavirus, the Student Health and Counseling Center in Rasmussen Hall, room 116/120, can answer questions by email at [email protected], phone at (907) 786-4040 or during business hours of Monday-Wednesday, 8-6 p.m., Thursday 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.