Coronavirus: Defining ‘Close Contact’

When it comes to the coronavirus, how exactly are we defining ‘close contact’? Authorities in the U.S. have taken great measures to ensure anyone flying in from China is quarantined upon arrival. Even so, with such drastic measures, officials advise U.S. residents to go about their regular business.

Exception to the Rule

People returning from China on or after February 3 are being asked to stay in quarantine or separate themselves indoors. Further, officials are asking anyone who has been in “close contact” with someone with a confirmed case to “self-quarantine.” What does this mean? “Self-quarantine” is a medical term, its definition varies by disease. In the case of the coronavirus, droplets from a sneeze or “other bodily secretion” would have to touch you in order to catch it. The severity of an illness, and how it’s spread, determines approximately how many people are at risk. The CDC is warning that anyone who has been within 6 feet, for long periods of time, of someone infected with the virus is at high risk. Local public health departments can then interpret this in any way that pertains to their area.

Affects of the Coronavirus

The most recent numbers are in the tens of thousands of confirmed cases in China, leaving hundreds dead. However, in the U.S. just a dozen cases have been confirmed. Health officials still believe the risk in the states is low, and they plan to keep it that way. A 34-year-old doctor in China was the first to warn of the deadly virus. After finding several cases of it in the hospital where he worked, the doctor contracted the disease and ultimately died on February 6. While cases can be spread by people not yet showing symptoms, doctors in the U.S. are saying that’s rare. Doctors advise everyone to keep doing what they’re doing to avoid the usual cold and flu. Similarly, avoid coming in to contact with someone who may have recently been exposed to the new coronavirus.

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