Key Takeaways

  • The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person
  • Symptoms include mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath
  • Individuals who suspect they may have the virus should call their health care provider

Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Massachusetts General Hospital

What is 2019 novel coronavirus?
The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person. This virus was first identified at the end of 2019 during an investigation into an outbreak of respiratory illness and pneumonia in Wuhan, China.

Have there been cases of 2019-nCoV in the U.S.?
Yes. The first infection with 2019-nCoV in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. The numbers have been small overall, and all thus far have been associated with prior travel from areas in or around Wuhan, China, or close household contact to an infected person from China. Thus, the risk of being exposed to this virus in the United States remains exceedingly low.  Updates of the count of cases of infection with 2019-nCoV in the United States is available on the CDC’s webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html.

How do people catch coronavirus?
The virus is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread when someone touches a contaminated surface, such as a door handle.

Is there a vaccine for 2019-nCoV?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. 

What are the symptoms of 2019-nCoV?
Patients with 2019-nCoV have had a mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. There is no medicine to treat the virus. Your healthcare provider may recommend rest, fluids and over-the-counter medicines.

What should I do if I have any of these symptoms?
Although your symptoms are most likely to be due to influenza or other viruses that occur commonly here in winter, you should call your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. If there is a reason to think that you may have been exposed to the new coronavirus, your healthcare provider will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for 2019-nCoV.

Is Massachusetts General Hospital prepared to care for patients with coronavirus?
Massachusetts General Hospital is fully prepared to care for patients with coronavirus. Mass General doctors, nurses, infection control specialists, emergency specialists and administrators have been closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak. They have developed a hospital-wide plan that will be put in place if patients with coronavirus come to the hospital or health center.

Does CDC recommend the use of facemask in the community to prevent 2019-nCoV?
No. CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public. While the virus has spread from person-to-person among close contacts such as family members, this virus is not currently spreading in the community in the United States. As always, if you have a fever or cough when at any of the Massachusetts General Hospital campuses, please pick up a mask at any information desk to help prevent the spread of germs of all kinds.