Virginia health official on coronavirus outbreak: ‘These viruses are mutating and evolving’

Health

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — There’s a second confirmed case of the Coronavirus in the U.S., and health officials are currently investigating a possible third in North Carolina.

Health officials in Virginia tell 8News it’s a topic of concern and they’re following the developments closely, keeping in contact with the likes of the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization.

“This is a brand new coronavirus that had not been identified in people before,” Dr. Lilian Peake, Epidemiologist for the Virginia Department of Health, said.

Dr. Peake explained that there is a family of coronaviruses, though the virus at the center of the latest outbreak is a new strain.

“It’s a family of viruses that normally infect animals,” she explained. “There are seven that can actually infect people, but these viruses are mutating and evolving all the time.”

Dr. Peake said some strains infecting humans present themselves as the common cold. Other coronaviruses can be more severe, and you may be familiar with them.

“You may have heard of SARS, that was a coronavirus that did cause more severe illness,” Dr. Peake said.

Travelers from China are being screened at five U.S. airports.

“The risk right now to the American public at large is considered low,” Dr. Peake assured.

Right now, the CDC says the virus appears to have a two-week incubation period, though Dr. Peake said it’s remarkable how quickly the virus was identified.

“We really are using lessons learned from outbreaks in the past, from emerging situations in the past, to share information, to understand what’s going on and to get information out quickly,” Dr. Peake added.

The first case of this latest coronavirus strain was confirmed on December 31. Worldwide, more than 850 are confirmed sick. So far, the death toll sits at 25.

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