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As flu activity in the United States is currently at a high and expected to continue for weeks, the news of another respiratory virus on the rise has placed many on high alert. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is the latest viral infection to cause concern across the globe. Many are wondering, what is this virus, how does it spread, how can it be prevented and do cancer patients need to take extra safety measures. In the U.S., there are currently five confirmed cases and 73 others are currently waiting for testing. While security measures are now in place and screenings are being performed at certain airports, there is still much unknown about this virus and the lingering question - what is 2019-nCoV?

What is the Novel Coronavirus?
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a new respiratory virus that belongs to the Coronavirus (CoV) family. Coronavirus is a large family of viruses, that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS. Like influenza and other respiratory pathogens, these viruses can be spread through person-to-person contact when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Most people who have the virus can unintentionally spread it before they show any signs of feeling ill. The risk of catching the virus in the U.S. is considered low.

Signs and Symptoms of the Virus:
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties. In more severe cases the symptoms are pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

How to protect yourself: 
Since there are currently no vaccinations or antiviral treatment for the virus, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness. Other preventative measures include:

  • Regular handwashing with soap for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Stay home when sick

Moffitt continues to monitor the guidance from the CDC and at this time our cancer patients should exercise precaution as they normally would during flu season. If you experience respiratory illness, it is best to contact your health care provider immediately for treatment.