EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Concern over a new strain of coronavirus continues to grow worldwide as an outbreak in China has killed more than 100 people and sickened thousands more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the virus has now been detected in more than a dozen countries including the United States, where at least five cases have been reported in Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington.
While the CDC says the risk for Americans remains low – what are some steps you can take to protect yourself?
The Rhode Island Department of Health says residents should take the same measures that healthcare providers recommend annually to prevent the spread of the flu:
- Get your flu shot and encourage the people around you to do the same.
- Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Flu is spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.
- Keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
“I do want to emphasize that, at this point, the risk for people in the United States is low. Also, at this point, we are not seeing person-to-person transmission of coronavirus in the United States.”Joseph Wendelken, Rhode Island Department of Health Public Information Officer
According to the CDC, human coronaviruses cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses like the common cold.
- runny nose
- sore throat
- a general feeling of being unwell
It can also sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis. The CDC says this is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease and people with weakened immune systems like infants and older adults.
In a news conference Monday, health officials in Massachusetts said that while no cases have appeared in the state to date, one of the best defenses against the virus is wearing a surgical mask.
Woonsocket-based CVS Pharmacy has since confirmed to Eyewitness News that surgical masks are now in short supply.
“We’re working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for face masks,” CVS spokesperson Mary Owens said. “This demand may cause shortages at some store locations and we’ll re-supply those stores as quickly as possible.”
The CDC is monitoring at least 100 people in 26 states for the virus. About 25 of them were found not to have it.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is monitoring two potential cases of coronavirus. Two people in the state recently traveled to Wuhan City, China, and developed respiratory symptoms. They are currently undergoing testing for the virus, according to health officials.
Samples have been sent to the CDC for testing and the individuals will remain isolated until test results are available.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed his state, which hasn’t seen any confirmed cases yet, sent seven possible cases to the CDC for testing. Of those cases, four patients remain in isolation while their results are pending.
The travelers had just returned to the country from Lunar New Year celebrations in China.
What happens next?
The CDC is screening travelers from Wuhan at several U.S. airports in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport began screenings last week.
The CDC also put out a travel advisory warning people to avoid any unnecessary trips to China.
Other coronavirus cases have been confirmed in several Asian countries including Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Patients have also been reported in France and Australia and on Monday, Ontario public health officials confirmed two people – a husband and wife – had the virus.
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