LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- There are now five confirmed Coronavirus cases in the United States.
Each patient returned to the U.S. from Wuhan, China, where the deadly virus is spreading rapidly. As of today, the Coronavirus has killed over 100 people in China.
With five confirmed cases here in the U.S., should locals be concerned?
One medical expert News 10 spoke with said it’s not a sense of urgency, but a sense of heightened awareness.
Joan Stokes is the vice president of Quality and Clinical Risk Management with Lafayette General Health System.
“Coronavirus is a large family of viruses. It’s been around for a very long time,” said Stokes. “This particular virus is called a Novel Strain of Coronavirus which means it’s new, and we see this a lot in large families of viruses. Viruses have the ability to mutate very quickly and create new strains.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of the Coronavirus is dependent on exposure. Someone who is in close contact with a person who is infected will be at a greater risk of infection.
“It can be very alarming because once human-to-human transmission occurs, typically, it starts out as a very inefficient process,” explained Stokes. “It might be very difficult for that to happen, but the more humans that are infected, the virus gets smarter and transmission can get a lot easier than it has in the past.”
Stokes said simple things like washing your hands, keeping your hands away from your face, and staying home when you’re sick can help.
“It causes respiratory symptoms so you may get fever, respiratory symptoms, body aches, well, what does that sound like? That sounds like the flu so right now it’s important that people who perhaps didn’t get the flu shot this year, it’s not too late,” said Stokes.
If a patient arrives at Lafayette General Medical Center with those symptoms, Stokes said they become a person under investigation.
“If someone has been to China over the last 14 days and they appear at say one of our emergency rooms with fever, respiratory symptoms, body aches, in that case, we immediately put the patient in a room away from other patients to avoid exposure to other patients,: added Stokes. “We have negative airflow rooms which prevents the air from circulating to other areas of the hospital.
If there is a patient who comes to LGMC with possible Coronavirus symptoms, they will contact the Office of Public Health which will take specimens from the patient to be sent to the CDC for testing.
While this is a serious public health threat, the CDC continues to believe the immediate risk to the U.S. general public is low at this time.