First, what do you think?
Before answering this question, we need to learn about virus first.
Unlike bacteria, virus does not own metabolic system, and can only live with other biological cells. After leaving the organism, virus cannot survive independently. The time of surviving depends on temperature, humidity and other conditions.
The coronavirus, which causes SARS has been confirmed to survive for 5 days on the surface of a smooth object at temperatures of 22-25 degrees Celsius and 40-50% of humidity. When exposed to higher temperatures and higher humidity, such as 38 degrees Celsius, humidity of 95%, the virus will be no more active.
The new coronavirus, 2019n-CoV, or NCP as its official name, is considered to be similar to the SARS virus. More detailed information about the new virus from Wuhan, China is still waiting to be revealed.
After a virus infects a person, it will be copied to a large amount in the body, before excreting in various ways like sneezing.
The air flow caused by a sneeze can be very strong and the droplets can spread to a long distance. Studies show that the droplets can spread to 8 meters away. By contrast, droplets when talking are not as aggressive as those when sneezing.
Virus in the droplets can survive on the surface of the surrounding objects, or people’s hands or clothes for some time, and that’s when healthy people may touch the virus and get infected through touching their nose, mouth or eyes.
So, back to the original question, when you happened to come across a patient with the new coronavirus, what’s the possibility of getting infected? We can have an analysis.
The worst-of-all scenario would be the infected person sneezes just 8 meters away from you, and you need to walk through the 8 meters, breathing in virus. Under that situation, the number of times of breath would be less than 2.4 times, which means you can only contact with very small number of viruses.
But that’s only the worst scenario. If you just pass by someone who is not sneezing, coughing or speaking, there’s no need to worry at all.
By now, there are only 11 confirmed cases reported in the US, so you are quite safe. Just remember to take the prevention steps, stay away from crowded people and you’re all good.