Doctor treating coronavirus cruise ship patients says illness is more contagious than SARS, MERS

Questions remain on how coronavirus is transmitted, an expert says

An expert in treating pathogens says the coronavirus is more easily transmitted than Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

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With SARS and MERS, research showed a person needed to be in close contact with someone in order to transmit those illnesses, Nebraska Biocontainment Unit medical director Dr. Angela Hewlett said in an exclusive interview Wednesday during FOX Business’ “The Claman Countdown.”

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Alternatively, coronavirus “seems to be easily transmissible person-to-person,” she explained, though she qualified doctors don't know a great deal about how the virus is transmitted yet.

“What I can tell you is that definitely close contact with someone who is ill is a high risk for acquiring this illness," Hewlett told FOX Business' Liz Claman.

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This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). (CDC via AP, File)

When 13 Americans tested positive or showed signs of contracting coronavirus on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan they were sent directly to the University of Nebraska's biocontainment unit, where Hewlett works.

“Our patients are doing relatively well,” Hewlett declared. “I will say they also had a long flight and a long ordeal, both on the Diamond Princess as well as their transportation here, but we are caring for them and making sure that all their needs are met.”

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Hewlett’s experience treating pathogens includes saving a patient who contracted the Ebola virus in 2014.

More than 70,000 people have been infected with coronavirus globally, with more than 2,000 deaths being reported, mostly in mainland China.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.