As New Hampshire monitors two possible cases of coronavirus, the risk of the novel infection spreading in Maine is low, according to the director of the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the new coronavirus strain has spread internationally in a few weeks, with the number of confirmed cases rising nearly 60 percent between Monday and Tuesday alone. And the outbreak is happening during what has already been a more intense flu season in Maine that has led to more hospitalizations and deaths than last year.
There is a lot still unknown about the coronavirus as national and global health agencies and experts track the evolving outbreak. And that’s part of what makes the infection so worrying to public health authorities trying to limit its spread.
“What makes anything dangerous is you don’t know anything about it,” said Ronald Corley, director of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories and a professor of microbiology at Boston University. “It just spilled over into the human population at the end of 2019. We don’t know really anything about it. We don’t necessarily know what to expect when a person gets the novel coronavirus.”
The first coronavirus infections were identified in the city of Wuhan in central China in December 2019. Within weeks, the virus spread across China and to at least 18 other countries, including the U.S. and Canada.
As of Wednesday, 132 people had died from the virus, and the number of confirmed cases had risen to 5,974, with the overwhelming majority in China, The New York Times reported. No international deaths have been reported yet.
Across the U.S., 165 people were being monitored for the coronavirus, the U.S. CDC said Wednesday. Of those, five had confirmed infections, with the majority — like those in New Hampshire — still awaiting test results.