CHINA: Coronavirus Could Spread Two Weeks Before Symptoms Show

People wearing face masks attend to a child in a stroller as they ride a subway train in Beijing, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. The new virus accelerated its spread in China, and the U.S. Consulate in the epicenter of the outbreak, the central city of Wuhan, announced Sunday it will …
AP File Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

A Chinese health official reports the Wuhan novel coronavirus could be contagious for up to two weeks before a patient becomes symptomatic. This means people who are not yet showing symptoms of coronavirus-related illness could be spreading the virus to other contacts.

China’s National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei told reporters during a press briefing on Sunday said the incubation period for the novel coronavirus is one to 14 days, Reuters reported. In a shocking continuation, the health commissioner said the virus is contagious during the incubation period — before patients exhibit symptoms of illness.

This is a dramatic difference from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002 and 2003 when only patients exhibiting symptoms could spread the disease.

Dr. William Schaffner, an advisor to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN, “This is a game changer.”

He said this makes containing the spread of the virus much more difficult when a patient can be spreading the virus for up to two weeks without knowing they have contracted the virus.

“It means the infection is much more contagious than we originally thought,” Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explained. “This is worse than we anticipated.”

Other health officials in the U.S. expressed doubt about the Chinese health commissioner’s analysis, CNN stated.

Another CDC advisor, Dr. Paul Offitt told CNN that given Ma’s statement, health officials should “cast a wider net” in an effort to alert potentially infected patients.

This makes the coronavirus more like the flu than SARS or even ebola, BBC Health and Science Correspondent Jame Gallagher reported.

“People with Sars (the last deadly coronavirus outbreak to hit China) and Ebola are contagious only when symptoms appear,” Gallagher wrote. “Flu, however, is the most famous example of a virus that you spread before you even know you’re ill.”

He cautioned we are not yet at the point where officials are saying this could be a global pandemic like the swine flu, but stopping “symptomless spreaders” will make containing the spread of the virus much more difficult.

Commissioner Ma also said the virus, which has now infected more than 2,000 people globally and killed 56 in China, is getting stronger in its ability to to move from one person to another. He said infections could continue to rise despite his country’s strong efforts to contain it.

Ma expressed their knowledge of the virus is still very limited and the risk of possible mutations is unclear.

In the latest step to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Chinese officials stopped the sale of wildlife in markets, restaurants, and e-commerce platforms nationwide, Reuters reported.

On Sunday, California health officials announced two confirmed coronavirus cases bringing the U.S. total to four, CNN reported.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified Orange County health officials Saturday that a potential case of coronavirus tested positive, while Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Sunday that the CDC had confirmed another case in a person who had ‘presented themselves for care’ after falling ill,” the CNN article states.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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