CDC warns public to prepare for coronavirus outbreak in U.S.

MEDFORD, Ore. — “2 percent doesn’t sound like much,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson Co. Health Officer. “But when you multiply it by millions it becomes a lot of people.”

A 2 percent mortality rate.

That’s what health officials are saying about the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.

A disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday, will soon spread across the U.S.

“The incubation period, all the different ways the disease can be transmitted, whether or not people can transmit the disease when they have no symptoms. Those are things we’re still trying to figure out,” said Dr. Shames.

Though it hasn’t been discovered in southern Oregon, Dr. Shames says the public has reason to be concerned.

He compares the spread of coronavirus to the 1918 influenza outbreak, which killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people worldwide and had the same mortality rate.

“For people that ended up in the hospital they’re often, especially the elderly, people often are struggling for their lives and high quality health care can bring them around. But that’s a lot to go through,” he said.

The latest CDC data shows the virus has infected more than 80,000 people, killing at least 2,600 people overseas.

There are 53 confirmed cases in the U.S., 10 of those in California including one in Humboldt County.

Although there are no confirmed cases in Oregon, Oregon Health Authority’s Jonathan Modie says the state is preparing for the worst.

“[If there was a confirmed case,] they would be monitored if they had severe symptoms,” said Modie. “They would be hospitalized. They would be in a room with negative pressure, so the contaminated air doesn’t escape.”

Modie says 76 people are being monitored for the virus in Oregon, the vast majority traveled from China.

That doesn’t mean those people have the virus, just that they might have been exposed.

“We have had a couple incidents of close contacts,” said Modie. “Those close contacts were on a flight with someone determined to be a confirmed case.”

With no vaccine for the virus and no medications approved to treat it anytime soon, Dr. Shames says you should be aware of the symptoms of coronavirus which are similar to catching the flu.

“It’s fever, respiratory illness, cough, malaise,” said Dr. Shames.

But if you haven’t traveled to mainland China or had direct contact with someone who had the disease, Dr. Shames says there’s no need to worry… just yet.

Right now, it’s all about slowing the introduction of the virus into the country and buying everyone more time to prepare.

“There may be quarantines there may be isolations involved, the virus wasn’t even known to us until late December, so we’re playing catch up still,” said Dr. Shames.

The OHA says its waiting to be told by the CDC if other countries are considered high-risk areas.

That means if someone flew from a country that now has the virus like Italy, Iran, or South Korea, whether they would need to be monitored, quarantined, or isolated.

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