Traverse City News and Events

Coronavirus Poses Low Risk To Northern Michigan, Says Health Department

By Beth Milligan | Jan. 25, 2020

A coronavirus outbreak in China that's making headlines poses little risk to northern Michigan residents, according to the Grand Traverse County Health Department - though officials are still offering tips for minimizing risks of encountering the disease.

The virus - which broke out in Wuhan, China and is in the same family of virus responsible for previous SARS and MERS outbreaks - has only generated two documented cases in the U.S. to date. Three cases are currently being investigated in southeast Michigan, but have not yet been confirmed. Coronavirus infection is similar to influenza, according to the Health Department: Both are respiratory infections that enter the body by being breathed in through the mouth or nose or entering mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth.

"They can cause symptoms as mild as a cold, or a flu-like combination of fever, aches, and fatigue, or serious complications like pneumonia or sepsis," according to the Health Department. "Neither flu viruses nor coronavirus can be killed by ordinary antibiotics, and even antiviral drugs were not very effective against either SARS or MERS. Coronaviruses are not usually as easily transmitted as is influenza, but the communicablity of this new virus is not well known yet."

Precautions to guard against coronavirus are similar to avoiding the flu and include frequent handwashing (20 seconds with soap), avoiding touching the eyes/mouth/nose with unwashed hands, avoiding contact with ill individuals, and good cough hygiene (coughing into a tissue that's then immediately discarded, or into an arm when necessary).

Individuals who've traveled to China in the last two weeks and feel sick with fever or cough or have difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical care, advising their doctor's office or emergency room prior to coming in about their symptoms. Individuals should also not travel while sick.

"It is natural and reasonable to be concerned about this new infection that is receiving such worldwide attention, but putting this into historical context may be reassuring," states the Health Department. "The SARS outbreak that originated in China in 2003 caused only eight confirmed cases and no deaths in the United States. And the MERS outbreak from Saudi Arabia in 2012 resulted in two U.S. cases and no deaths. At this point, based on what we currently know, the risk is low for most U.S. citizens who are not traveling to China to contract the virus."

 

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