Stay Informed About 2019-nCoV

Pharmacy Times, February 2020, Volume 87, Issue 2

As the most accessible health care providers, pharmacists can play a key role in counseling patients on the best practices for infection control and prevention.

In late 2019, an outbreak of apparently viral pneumonia of unknown etiology was reported in Wuhan, China.

On January 9, 2020, the Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization announced the discovery of a novel coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, which was confirmed as being responsible for the pneumonia outbreak. Less than 3 weeks later, officials with the Institut Pasteur sequenced the entire genome of this coronavirus, becoming the first institution in Europe to do so. The speed at which this sequencing took place should assist in the quick development of diagnostic tests and treatments.

In the interim, people visiting pharmacies will have questions. It is important that pharmacists stay attuned to the continuing developments related to this illness so that they can provide answers to those questions as best they can.

What we know so far is that late last month, Alex Azar, secretary of the US Department of Health & Human Services, signed a public health emergency declaration in response to the situation.

On January 30, CDC officials confirmed that 2019-nCoV had spread between 2 people in the United States, representing the first instance here of person-to-person spread with the new virus. This latest patient with 2019-nCoV had no history of travel to Wuhan but shared a household with the patient who received the diagnosis of 2019-nCoV infection on January.

Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome, the other 2 coronaviruses that emerged to cause serious illness in people, have been known to cause some person-to-person spread. With both of those viruses, person-to-person spread most often occurred between close contacts, such as health care workers and those caring for or living with an infected person. CDC officials have been proactively preparing for the introduction of 2019-nCoV in the United States for weeks, taking these actions:

  • Alerting clinicians on January 8 to be on the lookout for patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan
  • Developing guidance for preventing 2019-nCoV from spreading to other communities and homes
  • Developing guidance for clinicians for the testing and management of 2019-nCoV, and for infection control of patients hospitalized or being evaluated by a health care provider

As the most accessible health care providers, pharmacists can play a key role in counseling patients on the best practices for infection control and prevention. Follow the most recent developments on 2019-nCoV on PharmacyTimes.com and sister website ContagionLive.com, which is written for infectious-disease specialists.