Infectious disease specialist: U.S. has ‘no need to panic right now’ amid efforts to contain new strain of coronavirus

Only one patient in the U.S., but deaths, cases rise in China

An infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio says a vaccine is already in the works for the Coronavirus.

SAN ANTONIODr. Jason Bowling, an infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio, says the U.S. has “no need to panic right now" amid international efforts to contain the coronavirus that began in China.

Only coronavirus patient in the U.S. is recovering in Seattle.

Bowling said at this point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “is putting this at a low immediate risk.”

However, the World Health Organization will reconvene Thursday to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency since a few cases have been reported in other Asian countries.

At least 17 deaths have been reported in China, where more than 500 cases are now confirmed.

Bowling said he worries this comes ahead of millions celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday.

“Lots of travel and transmissible diseases can lead to increased numbers of cases,” Bowling said.

He said traveling to China is the key risk factor, especially in Wuhan, which is now known as ground zero, where the previously unknown strain of the coronavirus was detected.

“It appears to be a respiratory disease,” Bowling said.

Bowling said more still needs to be learned about its signs and symptoms. But unlike previous outbreaks of other communicable diseases, technology and experience are proving helpful, he said.

Bowling said technology helped unlock the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus strain.

He said as a result, “They’re working on developing a vaccine at this point, now that they have the genetic sequence for this virus.”

The CDC also has a diagnostic test for the virus, Bowling said.

He also said there’s more international cooperation, including from China.

“All these resources are being put to bear to learn more about this,” Bowling said.

“We have to be vigilant and monitor information as we get more,” he said.

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.