MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The first confirmed case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Washington State. Now, extra security measures are being taken at airports across the country.
Alabama Department of Public Health officials say it’s a rapidly-changing situation.
“This Novel Coronavirus has never been identified in humans before, so it’s a new coronavirus,” said ADPH Medical Officer of Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Burnestine Taylor.
But what exactly is it? Public health officials say it’s a part of a family of viruses including the common cold, and severe respiratory virus. This specific strain has pretty common symptoms.
“Most of the coronaviruses cause respiratory symptoms, so fever, respiratory symptoms, shortness of breath, cough are the main symptoms,” said Taylor.
Taylor says some people have died from the virus, but for most people, that’s not the case.
“Generally, there are people who have symptoms just like with the flu, who survived, but as people who have weakened immune systems, elderly that probably have a higher chance of not surviving,” said Taylor.
The virus spreads from person to person. Unless you’ve come in contact with someone who recently visited Wuhan, China, or is confirmed to have the virus, officials say you’re likely in the clear, but there are some things that you can do to help keep yourself safe.
“Wash your hands. Cover your cough and sneeze, and those are universal recommendations that we make for all communicable diseases,” said Taylor.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will join three other U.S. airports that are screening passengers traveling from areas where the coronavirus was present. Anyone who has signs or symptoms will be screened.
“The goal is to identify those people that we know were in an area where it was present. There’s no cure, so the motive is to prevent spread,” said Taylor.
The ADPH is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to monitor the spread of the virus.
“We know that people are being monitored at airports. So what we’ve done, we’re sending news releases out, we’re sending health alerts, news alerts to physicians, emergency rooms, so physicians will be aware and can test and all state lab is equipped and ready to send specimen to CDC if they deem necessary to do further testing,” said Taylor.
County health departments are posting signs cautioning the public experiencing these or any flu-like symptoms not to enter these facilities. People with these symptoms should instead contact a physician, urgent care center, or hospital emergency room for screening and care. The ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories is prepared to receive notifications and specimens from healthcare providers who treat patients presumed to meet the criteria for coronavirus.