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Expert points out that most of us have had coronavirus and didn't know it; why this strain is different

Posted: 8:31 PM, Feb 03, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-03 23:12:24-05

KIPS BAY, Manhattan — From Princeton to Manhattan to Queens, health care professionals across the Tri-state area were dealing with many cases of potential coronavirus.

At Princeton University, in New Jersey, the administration confirmed a report in the student-run newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, that 108 students who’d recently traveled to China were self-isolating — staying in their rooms, away from other students, in an effort to ensure that, if the students who'd visited China in the last month or so were carriers of the virus, that they wouldn't expose their fellow students to it.

The university administration told PIX11 News, in a statement, that "University Health Services is assessing the exposure risk of each individual who has been in self-quarantine, placing them into one of three risk categories: high, medium, or low. Individuals who are determined to be at low risk are not required to self-quarantine. We expect most of our students to fall into this category. The University will continue to support individuals who choose to self-quarantine. However, those at low risk may resume all activities, including attending classes and events."

Meanwhile, in New York City, three different patients who'd been in China in recent weeks or had close personal contact with someone who'd traveled there, showed flu-like symptoms of the virus over the weekend. Since all three people tested negative for the flu, it meant that they could possibly be affected by coronavirus.

Results of tests for that illness, unlike tests for the flu, are not instantaneous.

With coronavirus, said Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, "The samples have to be collected, and sent to the CDC. So there's a week or two delay."

She pointed out that because concern about coronavirus is so great, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is based in Atlanta, has expedited the testing process. The CDC has indicated to local health officials that results should be ready in about three days from when a patient with symptoms first seeks medical attention.

"The fact they're able to get results out faster [than usual] is an improvement," Parikh said.

While contracting the virus can be deadly, and precautions against it are essential, Parikh said that most people are unaware that they've contracted the coronavirus before.

"The coronavirus isn't exactly new," she said, in an interview. "It's actually the same virus as the common cold, so most of us have been infected with the coronavirus at some point in our lives."

However, Dr. Parikh continued, "the thing about this strain is it's the mutated version of the virus."

It's "more deadly than the common cold," she said.

The strain causing concern worldwide is called the novel coronavirus. Its very name implies that it's new, and its treatment is not exactly clear.

Noting that, the specialist said, the utmost caution has to be taken around anyone who may be carrying the virus.

"They need to be isolated until they show signs of symptoms dissipating, because we do know that it can be speed from human to human."

That recommendation is exactly what Princeton students, and the three New York cases, at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, and at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Flushing Hospital in Queens, are doing.