Novel Coronavirus in China

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Key Points

  • There is an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.
  • Reportedly, most patients have had links to a large seafood and live animal market. Health officials closed the market on January 1, 2020, for cleaning and disinfection.

  • Limited person-to-person spread may occur.

  • Travelers to Wuhan, China, should avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and contact with sick people.

  • Travelers from Wuhan to the United States may be asked questions about their health and travel history upon arrival.

  • The situation is evolving. This notice will be updated as more information becomes available.

What is the current situation?

A novel (new) coronavirus is causing an outbreak in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Symptoms of this illness include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Most patients have been linked to the Wuhan South China Seafood City (also called the South China Seafood Wholesale Market and the Hua Nan Seafood Market). In addition to seafood, the market sells chickens, bats, cats, marmots, and other wild animals. On January 1, 2020, Chinese health officials closed the market for cleaning and disinfection.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are several known human coronaviruses that usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least twice previously, coronaviruses have emerged to infect people and cause severe disease, such as has been seen with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).The cases in the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak have tested negative for both SARS and MERS.

Chinese health officials have reported more than 40 cases of pneumonia; several patients had severe illness, and 2 people have died. Cases were identified between December 8, 2019, and January 8, 2020. Both patients who died were older adults and one of the two patients had known serious underlying medical conditions.

Chinese health officials have monitored several hundred close contacts, including health care workers, for illness and found no additional cases. Some patients in the outbreak reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, suggesting that some limited person-to-person spread may be occurring. All the characteristics of this virus and how it may affect people are still unclear.

In response to this outbreak, several countries and territories in the region are reported to have implemented health screening of travelers arriving from Wuhan. Some cases have been exported to other countries in the region.

On arrival to the United States, travelers from Wuhan may undergo health screening, including having their temperature taken and filling out a symptom questionnaire. Travelers with symptoms (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) will have an additional health assessment.

What can travelers do to protect themselves and others?

Travelers to Wuhan should

  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

If you traveled to Wuhan and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should

  • Stay home. Except for seeking medical care, avoid contact with others.
  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Not travel while sick. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Clinician Information

Health care providers should obtain a detailed travel history for patients with fever and acute respiratory illness. For patients who traveled to Wuhan on or after December 1, 2019, and had onset of illness within 2 weeks of leaving, consider the novel coronavirus outbreak in China and notify infection control personnel and your local health department immediately.

Although the transmission dynamics have yet to be determined, CDC recommends a cautious approach to interacting with patients under investigation. Ask such patients to wear a surgical mask as soon as they are identified. Conduct their evaluation in a private room with the door closed, ideally an airborne infection isolation room, if available. Personnel entering the room should use standard precautions, contact precautions, and airborne precautions and use eye protection (goggles or a face shield). For additional infection control guidance, visit CDC’s Infection Control webpage.

For additional information, please see:


This notice was originally posted January 6, 2020.