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2019 Novel Coronavirus in Boston

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Public Health Commission

The first case of the 2019 novel coronavirus in Massachusetts has been confirmed in a man returning from Wuhan, China, who is in his 20s and lives in Boston.

This was the eighth case of infection with 2019 novel coronavirus reported in the United States. The risk to the public from the 2019 novel coronavirus remains low in Massachusetts.

Information related to the coronavirus is still evolving. We'll continue to add updates with new and relevant information as it becomes available. You can find answers to common questions, related links, and coronavirus fact sheets at the bottom of this page.

Common questions

Common questions

The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China. It has not been previously known to spread in humans.

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) are examples of coronaviruses.

When the outbreak in Wuhan, China began, many patients reported links to a large seafood and animal market. This suggested that it was spread from animal to people. However, on Thursday, January 30, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that 2019-nCoV has spread between two people in the United States.

Currently, it’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people. When other coronaviruses like MERS and SARS spread between people, it is thought to have happened when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.

Symptoms include fever and respiratory illness, such as cough and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, infection can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Symptoms of 2019-nCoV may be similar to the flu. Preliminary information suggests that older adults and people with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk for severe complications from this virus.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus. BPHC always recommends standard precautions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Using alcohol-based hand rubs and gels.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when you are sick.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

If you traveled to China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a health care provider’s office or emergency
  • room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

The Centers for Disease Control does not currently recommend the use of face masks to help prevent novel coronavirus. Instead take these actions to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses:

  • cover your cough or sneeze
  • wash your hands often with soap and water
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, and
  • stay home when you are sick.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory recommending Americans not to travel to China due to 2019-nCoV. If you must travel:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to China with their health care provider.

If you have symptoms consistent with 2019-nCoV virus and have traveled to China in the past 14 days, your health care provider will test you for the virus.

If you experience symptoms and have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for 2019-nCoV infection, contact your health care provider. Health care providers should get a detailed travel history from patients with fever and acute respiratory illness.

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for the 2019-nCoV infection. People infected with 2019-nCoV should receive supportive care and help to relieve symptoms.

People who think they may have been exposed to 2019-nCoV should contact their health care provider immediately.