The number of confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has risen to more than 8,000 in 22 nations and territories, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with the respiratory infection killing over 170. The agency on Thursday declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and issued recommendations to China and countries around the globe.

Featured updates: COVID-19

Track the evolving situation with the AMA's library of the most up-to-date resources from JAMA, CDC and WHO.

At this article’s deadline, the number of confirmed U.S. cases was six, which includes the first case of human-to-human transmission of the virus in this country. Nearly another 100 patients are under investigation and awaiting laboratory test results and 68 people have tested negative in the U.S.

As a plane with 195 Americans returned to the U.S. from Wuhan, China this week, the passengers underwent isolation for risk assessment and diagnostic testing and agreed to stay at the March Airforce Reserve Base for 72 hours to have their symptoms monitored. The CDC is expanding entry screening to 20 U.S. ports of entry where the agency has quarantine stations.

Physicians are invited to join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity call Friday, Jan. 31, 2–3 p.m. EST. During this call, physicians and other health professionals will learn about the epidemiology, infection control and prevention recommendations, specimen collection and testing, and clinical management for patients with the 2019-nCoV infection.

The CDC continues to closely monitor this situation and is working with the WHO, as well as state and local agencies to respond to this emerging public health threat. Get a quick update with these five things doctors must know about the novel coronavirus.

JN Learning™ provides resources for physicians to learn more about the novel coronavirus. This provides valuable information that physicians and patients need to know about the 2019-nCoV, along with CME on how to treat outbreaks.

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Planeload of happy returning Americans

The nearly 200 Americans who landed at the March Air Reserve Base near Riverside, California, on Wednesday will be held, voluntarily, for 72 hours following their return from Wuhan. They are being isolated. None of the passengers showed signs of having the virus before leaving Wuhan, which is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China, or when screened again during a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.

The CDC indicated that the passengers want to know their own status for the safety of their families and communities. Twenty CDC staffers are on hand to screen and monitor the travelers from China for fever and other symptoms. Samples from the passengers have been sent to CDC for further testing.

The 72-hour stay was established as a precaution to fully assess everyone, according to the CDC. The time was allotted to be mindful of the passengers’ stress from travel and to allow for rest before conducting health assessments. It also allows the CDC to enact an appropriate degree of caution for a new disease.

If health officials determine the passengers do not pose a danger to the general public, they can go home. However, they will require a 14-day incubation period monitored by local officials. The patients staying at the base can also choose to remain there for the 14-day incubation period.

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The AMA Code of Medical Ethics and quarantine

While the CDC’s response does not constitute a quarantine, it is worth noting that the AMA Code of Medical Ethics advises individual physicians on the use of quarantine and isolation as a public health intervention.

For infectious diseases such as the novel coronavirus, this may include the use of quarantine and isolation to reduce transmission of disease and protect the health of the public. In these situations, physicians also have a responsibility to protect their own health to ensure they can provide appropriate care to patients.

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics says the medical profession, in working with public health colleagues and civil authorities, has a responsibility to “ensure that quarantine measures are ethically and scientifically sound.” More specifically, they should “use the least restrictive means available to control disease in the community while protecting individual rights” and be enacted “without bias against any class or category of patients.”

Read the entire AMA Code of Medical Ethics opinion on the ethical use of quarantine and isolation.

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