Coronavirus is spreading.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a developing story and ICD10monitor will continue to update you on the latest development on this global health crisis.

As of Jan. 27, eight cases of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCor) have been reported in the United States. The outbreak that started in Wuhan, China has spread to four states – Washington, California, Arizona, and Illinois.     

In China, there are close to 2,000 cases that have been confirmed, with 56 deaths. Cases reported in Shanghai have increased concern for a potential epidemic in China due to the large population in that city. Internationally, the virus has spread to Australia, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that this event does not meet the level of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern yet, but the Emergency Committee will reconvene to assess the situation.    

The situation is very fluid now. The U.S. State Department has ordered the Wuhan diplomats of the U.S. Consulate and other U.S. citizens to leave the area. U.S. citizens were advised to contact the Consulate if they wanted a spot on the plane, which is leaving on Tuesday, Jan. 28. 

The coronavirus is transmitted between animals and people. The symptoms of this virus include mild to severe respiratory illness, with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Severe cases of the infection may produce pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death. The virus spreads from person to person, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are not sure how easily the virus spreads. Typically, the person-to-person transfer includes coughing or sneezing, if the virus is spread like influenza or other respiratory pathogens. The incubation period for this virus is 10 to 14 days.

The WHO recommends the following actions for prevention:

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Thoroughly cook meat and eggs
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness

The CDC has also recommended that the flu shot would provide some coverage.

WHO is recommending that countries increase surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs). The WHO should be notified of any confirmed or suspected case of the novel coronavirus.  

The coding for this virus can be found in the 2020 ICD-10-CM Coding Manual. When looking under the term “coronavirus,” the corresponding code is B97.29. This code has a description of Other coronaviruses as the cause of disease classified elsewhere.  Using this code is like coding a urinary tract infection, so the coder is required to look further. The SARS-associated coronavirus as the cause of disease classified elsewhere would be assigned B97.21. The main term of Virus leads the coder to the coding instruction of See Also Condition. The coder should then reference the main term of Infection with sub-term of coronavirus. The corresponding code is B34.2 for Coronavirus, unspecified.    

At this time, there is not enough information known to be more specific. The only American Hospital Association (AHA) Coding Clinic reference to coronavirus can be found in the Fourth Quarter, 2003. This reference discusses the SARS coronavirus.    

Programming Note: Listen to Laurie Johnson report this story live with updated information today during Talk Ten Tuesdays, 10-10:30 a.m. EST.


Laurie M. Johnson, MS, RHIA, FAHIMA, AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer

Laurie Johnson is currently a senior healthcare consultant for Revenue Cycle Solutions, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. Laurie is an AHIMA-approved ICD-10-CM/PCS trainer. She has more than 35 years of experience in health information management and specializes in coding and related functions. She has been a featured speaker in over 40 conferences. Laurie is a member of the ICD10monitor editorial board and is a permanent panelist on Talk Ten Tuesdays

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