A new coronavirus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness, referred to as COVID-19. It was first detected in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 12, 2019. Because this disease has spread worldwide, it is important that water sector professionals keep informed on the attributions of the virus and any measures needed to protect both workers and public health, in general.
Extent of the COVID-19 Outbreak
Based on the sharp increase in number of COVID-19 infections, on Jan. 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern.
On March 4, 2020, the World Health Organization reported 93,090 cases globally and 3,198 deaths in 66 countries worldwide, with the vast majority (80,422 cases and 2,984 deaths) in China, according to WHO’s Situation Report – 44.
The U.S. reported its first confirmed case of person-to-person spread with this virus on Jan. 30, 2020. As of March 5, 2020, there were 163 confirmed cases in the U.S. across 18 states, as well as 11 deaths, according to news reports.
In Canada, 33 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in three provinces as of March 5, 2020, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian case numbers are being updated daily.
Have We Seen This Virus Before?
What Do We Know About Its Origin?
The virus, technically named SARS-CoV-2, is a newly identified virus strain, but it is the seventh coronavirus known to infect humans. The resulting illness is referred to as COVID-19. This virus is the same coronavirus family as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV or SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV or MERS), which caused the two previous outbreaks in 2003 (SARS) and 2012 (MERS).