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Health officials gearing up to prevent spread of Coronavirus in Utah

(Travelers in Beijing. Credit: Mark Schiefelbein, AP)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Department of Health isn’t taking any chances when it comes to the possible spread of the Coronavirus in Utah.  Doctors haven’t spotted any cases of it here, yet, but, they’re preparing, just in case.

Health Department officials are not at liberty to say how many Utahns have been tested for possible exposure to the novel Coronavirus.  However, Doctor Angela Dunn says they all have the same things in common.

“They have traveled to China and they have respiratory symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath,” she says.

(Dr. Angela Dunn, speaking about the virus at the Utah Department of Health. Credit: KSL TV)

Luckily, no one in Utah has tested positive for the virus, yet.  However, there have been confirmed cases in Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington.  Dunn says since the virus is so new to humans, doctors have a lot of uncertainty about it.

“It first started from animal-to-human transmission.  Then the virus was able to mutate so that it was able to spread from person to person,” Dunn says.

She says experts haven’t been able to figure out why it mutated so recently or why it seems to be relatively mild in the U.S. when it has been deadly in China.

“This is a new virus that we haven’t seen before, meaning, we don’t have a vaccine, currently,” she says, adding, “Currently the only treatment for the novel Coronavirus is symptom management and supportive treatment.”

There hasn’t been any evidence of the virus spreading from human to human in the U.S., but Dunn says there are ways people can protect themselves from it.  Doctors recommend people avoid any unnecessary travel to China.  Anyone who has recently gone there should avoid contact with others if they feel any kind of respiratory problem.  Plus, they should get medical care, immediately.

Also, daily habits like washing your hands for 20 seconds and using an alcohol-based sanitizer can prevent it from spreading.

In the meantime, she says the state staying in contact with groups who may be welcoming visitors from China.

“That’s our universities, our Chinese associations and other such groups.  We’ve been reaching out to them to let them know what symptoms to watch out for and how they can contact us if they’re concerned,” Dunn says.

The UDOH has also created a website for anyone who wants to know more about the possible dangers of the virus.