The first case of coronavirus in the US has reportedly raised some concerns among those on the ground.
Just days after the first case of a human case of SARS-like zoonotic respiratory illness, called MERS-CoV, was confirmed in the US, the New York Times published a fascinating piece on the initial response to the case. The symptoms and severity of the case are similar to some of the patients diagnosed in Britain with the "beast from the East," causing some concern among those who monitor bioterrorism preparedness.
The MERS-CoV is a virus family that includes so-called "coronaviruses," which have the potential to jump from animals to humans, resulting in a potential for serious public health concerns.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been monitoring the virus, as well as hand-washing guidelines for those who may come into contact with the patient, but its approach to the problem hasn't been tailored solely to the US patient, even though the bug is believed to have been spread person-to-person in the country for more than a year.
The Times noted that CDC officials have taken the approach of focusing on "the virus and its potential health risks," attempting to minimize concern and minimize panic.
In the UK, where there have been hundreds of cases of SARS-like coronavirus, with dozens of fatalities, anti-terrorism response teams are closely monitoring the events. Counterterrorism officers are involved with the illness in several ways, from the investigation of MERS-CoV patients to health worker training. Such teams play a very small role in the US, including training when health care workers are so-called "at risk," looking into increasing public awareness of the virus, and helping with health outreach.
The announcement came just days after The Lancet published a major report linking the World Health Organization, USAid and the UK Department of Health's handling of the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Back in 2003, just one year after the attack of 9/11, the WHO declared the World Health Organization's chief "seriously unwell" from SARS. That resulted in the UK National Health Service prescribing anti-viral treatments which, experts later suggested, could have helped control the virus. The virus, however, remained a persistent health problem.
It's a bold move by the WHO to repeat such lessons in this case. With global bodies mulling over bioterrorism cooperation, this case of the first known case of coronavirus in the US raises concerns. The CDC is reminding people -- again -- that "it's too early to tell if this illness or its evolution in the coming weeks or months will bring about a global public health emergency," and emphasizing the possibility of treating the illness at most by stopping coughing.