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Jan. 21, 2020

A respiratory virus has spread from China to at least a dozen other countries, including the U.S. Here’s what you need to know.

An international outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus has killed at least 132 people and sickened about 6,000, according to the Chinese health authorities.

The outbreak began in Wuhan, China, apparently at a market selling live poultry, seafood and wild animals. Now the virus has turned up in more than a dozen other countries, including Japan, South Korea, France, Australia and the United States. Investigators in still other nations, and in several American states, are evaluating possible cases.

Officials in China have closed transportation links from and within Wuhan and other affected cities. Schools have been closed in affected regions. Major attractions, festivals and movie theaters have been closed down, and sales of tourist packages from China to other countries have been halted.

At the moment, the risk of infection with the new coronavirus in the United States — where there are only five confirmed cases so far — “is way too low to start wearing a face mask,” Dr. Rabinowitz said. “The risk is very, very low to the general public.”

Read the entire story in the New York Times. Peter Rabinowitz, Professor of Global Health and director of the UW Metacenter, is quoted. Also see related stories in the New York Times (Many in China wear them, but do masks block coronavirus?)NewScientist, HeraldNet and Business Insider.


Mask Hoarders May Raise Risk of a Coronavirus Outbreak in the U.S.

Jan. 30, 2020

Stores are selling out of masks, and health care workers risk infection if they cannot get the protective gear.

Even though there are only five cases of Wuhan coronavirus in the United States, the mask hoarding has begun.

Some pharmacies report being entirely sold out of masks. Some popular sellers on Amazon say deliveries will be delayed for weeks.

Although masks actually do little to protect healthy people, the prospect of shortages created by panic buying worries some public health experts.

“I worked through the 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic at Yale Hospital, and we ran out of N-95 masks — and being in a high-risk situation without enough masks is not a good feeling,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, co-director of the University of Washington MetaCenter for Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health Security in Seattle.

Read the entire story in the New York Times. Peter Rabinowitz, Professor of Global Health and director of the UW Metacenter, is quoted.