Cancer patients and the coronavirus: What you should know

If you, or someone you know, has ever had a cold or the sniffles, you may have already come into contact with a coronavirus. There are several different types of coronavirus circulating in the world, and the majority of them do not cause severe illness. Here are seven things cancer patients should know about coronaviruses, including the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first detected in Hubei province, China. What is a coronavirus? Human coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are found throughout the world. There are seven known types. Four of those types (229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1) cause only mild or moderate upper-respiratory illness, such as the common cold. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people will get infected with one of these common types of coronavirus in their lifetime. What makes the 2019 novel coronavirus different? In rare instances, a coronavirus that originates in animals may evolve or “jump species” to infect humans. These viruses can cause more severe illnesses in people, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The COVID-19 respiratory disease that originated in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, is believed to be the latest example of animal-to-person spread. Can I catch the 2019 novel coronavirus? There have been no cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus at MD Anderson and no confirmed cases in the Houston area or Texas yet. The COVID-19 also isn’t spreading rapidly in the United States, so it’s unlikely that someone in the U.S. will get sick with the virus right now. “Unless you have personally traveled to the...