The risk of coronavirus to Coloradans is low, but authorities and doctors are prepared.
That's the message Colorado's public health department and hospitals are trying to send as they continue to ready themselves if a case of the fast-spreading virus is ultimately found in the state.
Colorado health officials are testing a third patient in the state for coronavirus. Two previous Colorado patients tested negative for the virus. All three patients who were tested showed respiratory symptoms and a history of travel from China.
Dr. Michelle Barron, the medical director of infection prevention at the University of Colorado Hospital, said while she's relieved the first suspected cases of coronavirus turned out to be negative, she's still staying alert.
“Given the number of cases that we're seeing in China and other parts of the world, it won't be unexpected if we do have a positive case at some point," Barron said. "I think most hospitals in the city, as well as the state, have been watching this and have means to be able to screen people when they come into either a clinic or the emergency department."
The New York Times reports that officials in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak of a "novel" coronavirus began, think around half of the city’s nearly 3,000 suspected cases of coronavirus will eventually test positive for the disease. As of Monday morning, there are 2,744 confirmed cases across China. At least 80 people have died from the virus. A fifth U.S. case has been confirmed.
The Centers for Disease Control has been able to quickly develop a test for coronavirus, Barron said, and the agency is hoping to send test kits to county health departments in the near future.
While the current epidemic is the first time many people have heard of coronavirus, the disease is not new.
“Coronaviruses (are) the most common cause of the common cold, so we've actually all probably had a coronavirus at some point in our lifetime,” Barron said.
What differs this coronavirus from the cold you caught after traveling for the holidays is severity, Barron said. What your typical coronavirus will cause a runny nose and cough, in this "novel" version of the virus, patients are contracting pneumonia and other severe symptoms.
In the meantime, what should you do if you’re concerned about getting sick? Barron breaks it down to three simple steps:
- Wash your hands frequently, and use alcohol-based sanitizers.
- Wear a mask if you’re sick, or if someone around you is sick.
- Clean surfaces like your phone and your desk.
“How much do we touch our phones and touch our surfaces in our office without even thinking about it, and then rub our eyes and itch our nose?" Barron said. "Which is the way these viruses often come into you, so to speak."