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    Infectious Disease Control Unit
    Mail Code: 1960
    PO BOX 149347 - Austin, TX 78714-9347
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    Austin, TX 78714

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Coronavirus, Novel

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Disease Condition

Novel coronavirus causing severe acute respiratory disease.

Organism

Two novel coronaviruses have been identified—SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

SARS-CoV (the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS) was first recognized in China in 2002, and it caused a worldwide outbreak from 2002 to 2003. Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS-CoV infection reported anywhere in the world.

MERS-CoV (the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS) was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and it continues to circulate and cause illness. Between 2012 and June 30, 2018, 2,229 MERS-CoV cases has been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), 83% of whom were reported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  In total, cases have been reported from 27 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, the United States, and Asia.

In addition to novel coronaviruses, there are four “seasonal” (non-novel) coronaviruses—alpha coronaviruses 229E and NL63, and beta coronaviruses OC43 and HKU1—that commonly circulate and that most people get some time in their lives. In contrast to the novel coronaviruses, seasonal coronaviruses typically cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness of short duration.

Transmission

The ways that common human coronaviruses spread have not been studied very much.  It is likely that human coronaviruses spread from an infected person to others through–

  • The air by coughing and sneezing,
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands,
  • Touching an object or surface with germs on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, or 
  • Rarely, fecal contamination.  

MERS-CoV has repeatedly entered the human population via direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels in the Arabian Peninsula.  Limited, non-sustained human-to-human spread mainly in health care settings continues to occur, primarily in Saudi Arabia. The risk of exported cases to areas outside of the Middle East due to travel remains significant.  There is no evidence of sustained human-to-human spread in the community.

Symptoms

Based on current information, the time between when a person is exposed to MERS-CoV and when they start to have symptoms is usually 5 or 6 days, but can range from 2-14 days. Most people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have had severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some people also had gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea and nausea or vomiting.  For many people with MERS, more severe complications followed, such as pneumonia and kidney failure. About 3 to 4 out of every 10 people reported with MERS have died. Most of the people who died had an underlying medical condition. Some infected people had mild symptoms (such as cold-like symptoms) or no symptoms at all; they recovered.

Based on what researchers know so far, people with pre-existing medical conditions—such as diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung, heart, and kidney disease—may be more likely to become infected with MERS, or have a severe case. Individuals with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk for getting MERS or having a severe case.

Prevention

Currently, there are no vaccines to prevent coronavirus infections, including infections with MERS-CoV. General preventive measures to protect yourself from respiratory illness—including novel coronavirus disease—including the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid personal contact—such as kissing, or sharing cups or eating utensils—with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs.

In addition to the measures listed above, the following preventive measures are recommended for travelers to countries in the Arabian Peninsula:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Be sure you are up-to-date with all of your shots and, if possible, see your healthcare provider at least 4–6 weeks before travel to get any additional shots.
  • Practice general hygiene measures, including regular handwashing before and after touching animals, and avoid contact with sick animals.
  • People who are traveling to provide health care services in the Arabian Peninsula should review CDC's recommendations for infection control of confirmed or suspected MERS cases.
  • Avoid contact with camels if you are at a higher risk of severe illness.
  • If you are sick:
    • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the used tissue in the trash.
    • Avoid contact with other people to keep from infecting them. This might mean delaying your travel until you are well.
    • Call a doctor if you develop a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. You should tell the doctor about your recent travel before you go in for an appointment.
    • Tell people who have been in close contact with you to monitor their health for 14 days after the last time they were around you.
      • They should call a doctor and tell them about your illness and travel history and their current symptoms.
    • If you get sick while you are traveling, see Getting Health Care Abroad for information about how to locate medical services overseas.

Persons who are confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, MERS-CoV infection should do the following to prevent transmission of illness:

  • Stay home, except for getting medical care (if needed)
  • Separate yourself from other people in your home
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Wear a facemask
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid sharing household items
  • Monitor your symptoms

Recent Texas Trends

No cases of novel coronavirus (including MERS-CoV) have been identified in Texas residents.

Public health departments continue to work with healthcare providers to identify, evaluate, and test persons with suspected novel coronavirus disease. Three Texas public health laboratories are able to perform testing for MERS-CoV on persons who meet certain illness and exposure criteria as defined by CDC.

Texas Trends image

Last updated September 11, 2018