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Three Children at the Sink Washing their Hands

Coronavirus spreading, flu a greater threat in the U.S.

By Dr. Douglas Mitchell, Norfolk Pediatrics

A novel coronavirus outbreak in China has recently spread to the United States, with five cases confirmed in California, Illinois, Arizona, and Washington state.

CHKD is closely monitoring patients to identify potential cases of the virus. We are following guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in screening patients who meet the symptoms, such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, and who also have a travel history to China or who have had close contact with a recent traveler from an infected area.

But something to keep in mind is the flu is currently far deadlier in the U.S., with more than 8,000 dying this season from the flu, including 54 children. And unlike the novel coronavirus, there’s a vaccine for the flu.

Prevention measures, such as washing hands frequently with soap and water, not touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and staying home when sick, protect against the flu and coronavirus.

Listen to more on this subject at this National Public Radio broadcast.

Here’s what you need to know about the novel coronavirus:

Chinese authorities first identified the new coronavirus, which had not previously been identified in humans, in December of 2019.

The United States detected its first case on January 21 in a traveler in Washington state who was returning from Wuhan City, China.

So far, five cases have been confirmed by the CDC in the U.S. At this time, testing to confirm cases can only be done at the CDC.

What are the symptoms of the novel coronavirus?

Infected people have a range of symptoms, with some having little to no symptoms and others being severely ill. Symptoms appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure and can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired

Who is most at risk?

Information is still being collected, but as with most respiratory illnesses, it is likely to be the young and the old who are most at risk once infected, along with people with underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system.

How is the new coronavirus spread?

Like cold and flu bugs, the new virus is spread by droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on surfaces and are picked up on the hands of others and spread further. People can catch the virus then they touch their infected hands to their mouth, nose, or eyes.

The best thing people can do at this time is follow practices that limit the spread of germs and respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you believe you are sick.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.

For more information on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Virginia Department of Health has also developed a novel coronavirus webpage. This webpage lists the status of current cases and provides resources for healthcare providers.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.