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Coronavirus outbreak: What to know, and should the U.S. be worried?

With the first confirmed case of Coronavirus in the U.S. should we be worried about an outbreak here?

MINNEAPOLIS — The U.S. now has its first case of Coronavirus, a new type of viral infection.

That person had recently traveled to China where the Coronavirus originated and is quarantined at a hospital in Washington state.

Six people in China have died from the virus and about 300 have been infected.

The virus first appeared in central China last month.

On Tuesday the CDC added Chicago's O'Hare and Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson to the list of airports screening people flying directly or indirectly from that region.

Dr. Michael Osterholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

He says Americans should be aware of the situation, but not worried.

"Public health around the world is on alert for this. They're monitoring it closely and intervening quickly when cases are identified," Osterholm says.

"I think the thing we worry about as health officials is a thing called "super spreading" where we have certain individuals that are not just infectious but highly infectious. This happened in a health care setting in Wuhan China where one patient transmitted the virus to 14 health care workers."

The word “Coronavirus” actually refers to a family of viruses that include MERS and SARS.

Like those two strains, Osterholm says this latest Coronavirus strain also came from an animal.

Chinese officials have traced the Coronavirus to an animal market in Wuhan China, but they still don’t know which animal species the virus came from.

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“The problem with this is that from the time you’re exposed, to the time you get sick, is seven or more days and you may not always know that you’re exposed,” Osterholm says.

“The early signs and symptoms are no different than influenza so they’re hard to identify.”

Symptoms range from mild flu-like symptoms of fever, head ache and respiratory problems, to very serious symptoms that are similar to pneumonia.

The virus can also be deadly. Of the 300 or so known cases so far, six of them have been fatal.

Osterholm says isn’t too worried about a mass outbreak here in the U.S. but he is worried about the global impact of a mass outbreak overseas.

"The U.S. should be very concerned about it, but not because the fact that we're going to become clinically ill with it, but today many of the products and goods that we use in this country, including our medicines, medical equipment, etc. come every day from China."

RELATED: 3 major US airports to screen passengers from China for new virus

Osterholm says this outbreak couldn’t have come at a worse time in China.

The Lunar New Year is just days away and we’re smack dab in the middle of the annual travel season.

Chinese officials say an estimated 3-billion people will fly in and out of China in the coming weeks.

For reference, the holiday travel season in the U.S that goes from Thanksgiving to Christmas attracts about 166 million travels.

The World Health Organization will meet in Switzerland on Wednesday to create a plan to contain the outbreak.

That plan could include trade and travel restrictions to keep the virus from spreading.


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