The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring developments around an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. With new cases reported across several different countries, including the U.S., Mass General has activated its Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) to monitor the situation. Please find the latest news and information here.

Coronavirus questions and answers

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.

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Helpful preventative measures

There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC always recommends the following to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if they are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Follow these five steps to wash your hands the right way
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.

Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can count to 20 to be sure you have scrubbed for the right amount of time.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Additional resources:

From the CDC:
  • 2019 Novel Coronavirus: What the Public Should Do (pdf)
  • Fight Germs. Wash Your Hands! (video) English  Spanish
  • Handwashing at Home, at Play, and Out and About (pdf poster)
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