Posted on Feb 27, 2020, 5 p.m.
An American with no history of travel to outbreak hotspots or exposure to another person that is infected with the coronavirus has been diagnosed with the disease, according to the CDC announcement this is very likely the first case of community spread inside of the United States.
According to the announcement the patient was admitted to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California on February 19, 2020 from another hospital, but the patient was not diagnosed until 4 days later. The hospital called in the CDC to do the testing because they are not capable of doing so which is what caused the delay.
The hospital released a statement saying that the patient was placed under “strict contact precautions” and believed there “has been minimal potential for exposure here at UC Davis Medical Center.” Additionally some of the hospital staff have been asked to stay home and monitor their condition/temperature as an added measure of precaution.
There are over 60 confirmed American cases of the coronavirus, 43 of whom were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. The coronavirus is known to be highly contagious, but it is not fully understood how it passes from person to person. This first incidence of reported American community spread serves to reveal gaps in the testing capability in the United States which could very well hamper efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
As it stands only the CDC and a few local public health agencies have the ability to administer testing. The current administration recently announced that the Vice President will be leading domestic efforts to combat the disease, and the administration has requested $1.25 million in emergency funding for the effort from Congress, along with $1.25 billion in funding to be diverted from other federal programs; additionally the White House budget office will be moving $535 million which was allocated for the prevention and treatment of the Ebola virus towards this.
“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen.”
For those hoping for a vaccine, keep in mind that even at rocket speed releasing any such vaccine would take at least a year at minimum to pass through development to animal testing, to initial human trials, and then the approval process. Some small initial human trials have begun involving a handful of subjects, and others are set to launch within a month, this will need to be expanded from the small numbers to include hundreds if not thousands of subjects in countries with active disease transmissions which could take another 6-8 months.
Over 27,000 people are listed as recovered from the coronavirus in China, these people may have blood supplies swarming with antibodies against the virus. Shanghai doctors have been collecting blood plasma from survivors to infuse into those who are infected, while this is not guaranteed to work it can sometimes be life saving. Shanghai doctors have also been using several medications (lopinavir, ritonavir, and Descovy) that are approved for HIV to those in severe respiratory distress. Scientists in China are also testing the antimalarial drug chloroquine, although not confirmed some reports are suggesting positive progress in patients receiving 400mg daily for 5 days.
Virus blockers such as the broad spectrum experimental remdesivir is a good prospect as it is active against viruses with genetic material made of RNA, it worked well in animals infected with MERS, but didn’t help much with Ebola. A study will be launched investigated remdesivir at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha where some Americans are in quarantine.
In the meantime prevention will always be better than any cure, and it might be a good idea to consider giving your immune system a hand. Stay clear of any one who is sick, wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face/food until you have washed your hands. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, and it might be a good idea to increase your garlic and vitamin C intake to boost your immune system. Don’t forget the importance of vitamin D in keeping the immune system strong and modulating the innate adaptive immune responses.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.