Health Advisory: Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) update 1/28/20

Update 1/28/20

University Health Services continues to monitor the coronavirus (2019-nCov) and share the latest information with the campus community. Infections continue to be reported outside of China, including in the Wuhan City area, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  There are scattered cases now emerging in a number of international locations(link is external), including five in the United States(link is external). There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in the Bay Area thus far.

While all of this is understandably causing anxiety, particularly in those returning from or with family in affected areas in China. And at this time, several important characteristics of this virus remain unclear:

  • How transmissible it is person-person 

  • What percentage of infected people become seriously ill

Person-to-person spread of infections can happen on a continuum: some viruses are highly contagious while other viruses are less so.  It’s not clear yet how easily 2019-nCoV spreads between people but according to indicators thus far it seems far less contagious than, for example, measles.  This estimate could change once more data becomes available. The virus can also mutate. 

There have been recent reports that individuals may be infectious before they develop symptoms; this is not yet confirmed, but it is not unusual for viruses to be transmissible just before symptoms develop, if much less so.  A person who is not coughing or sneezing will spread far fewer infectious droplets.

Because the symptoms of 2019-nCoV are so nonspecific and because most people with cold or flu symptoms are not being tested for it, it is impossible to know what proportion of people become seriously ill.  The World Health Organization's Emergency Committee on the coronavirus said in a Jan. 22 news conference that nearly three-quarters of KNOWN (e.g. tested for, and tested positive) cases have been in people over age 40 and that "cases who died — many had significant underlying conditions" like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But there are some confirmed cases in otherwise healthy, young individuals.

While the CDC considers this is a very serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time. Nevertheless, CDC is taking proactive preparedness precautions, and the UC systems is following suit.