Utah leaders say they are prepared for the “worst case” if the coronavirus hits

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SALT LAKE CITY – Utah health officials say they have coordinated an “extraordinary and unprecedented response” to the new coronavirus amid fear of an outbreak.

“Only Utah Department of Health personnel have logged more than 900 hours in response to the new outbreak of coronavirus in the past three weeks,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, speaking about the virus during a press conference on Friday. in the state Capitol.

She said the state health department’s laboratory was certified to detect the virus.

“This means that we can really identify, rule out or confirm cases here in Utah much faster, and we expect this to go online in the next two weeks,” Dunn explained.

“Our message is that, while Utah is not experiencing an outbreak, and we believe that the risk of Utahns is really low, we must all be cautious and diligent to move forward, but not too worried,” said Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox .

Among the efforts made before the virus reaches Utah, the Office of Emergency Medical Services is identifying the possible shortage of medical assets such as hospital beds and personnel, according to Dunn.

“In public health, at the state and national level, we always prepare for the worst case scenario, and that is exactly what we are doing in Utah. We are working with all of our health care providers to ensure that, in the worst case scenario. cases, let’s have plans instead of where to locate patients, how to get them the care they need and how to prevent the spread to other people, Dunn said.

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that began in 2014, the department identified hospitals that could treat the sickest patients. In the event of a coronavirus outbreak, Utah has the infrastructure to treat patients, he said. But as of now, authorities believe that any hospital can contain infectious patients.

When asked about the possibilities of a widespread outbreak, and what would happen if the virus spread rapidly in Utah as it did in China, infecting thousands and forcing millions to quarantine, Dunn emphasized that the United States has “an infrastructure of really solid public health. ” “

Although a study claimed that the virus can spread while a patient is asymptomatic (symptoms may take two to 14 days to appear), Dunn said the study has been largely discredited.

“Hour by hour, we want the people of Utah to know that every effort is being made to ensure they stay healthy, and this virus does not infect people here in the state of Utah,” Cox said.

The new coronavirus strain, called 2019-nCoV, is related to the SARS and MERS viruses, and health officials believe it was first transmitted to humans from animals at a seafood market in Wuhan, in the Chinese province of Hubei . Since then it has been discovered that it spreads from human to human.

“The SARS had a 10% mortality rate. (MERS) had a 30% mortality rate. However, the number of cases of these outbreaks was much smaller than this outbreak. This outbreak has a 2% mortality rate, but if there are enough people who are becoming infected, it is still a very significant percentage, “said Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health.

He said that if an outbreak affects Utah, measures taken with isolation and quarantine are effective in controlling those outbreaks.

The virus has infected more than 31,000 worldwide and killed nearly 640, the Associated Press reported Friday. The United States has seen 12 confirmed cases in six states.

Utah has examined 10 people suspected of having the coronavirus, according to Dunn, but no one in the state has tested positive. The results of two patients remained outstanding on Friday.

Public health workers in San Juan County say they are monitoring two travelers who recently returned from China to the southeast corner of Utah.

Cases have been confirmed in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin.

Cox says the state headquarters have received many phone calls and emails from residents worried about the virus. He urged local health departments and doctors to work closely with the state health department to gather accurate information.

He said that with the amount of new information about the virus that enters every day, there are difficulties to publicly disseminate it in a largely rural state. He promised that the state will update Utahns in case there is a confirmed case of a new coronavirus.

“While the origin of this outbreak and virus in particular dates back to China, it would be inappropriate, not to mention medically ineffective, to exclude any of our communities or exclude any of our public gathering places, depending on their race, nationality or ethnicity. “said Cox.

Utah-based Co-Diagnostics created a test for the virus that, according to the company, accelerates the process and provides accurate results. The company is working with the Food and Drug Administration to have the test approved for emergency use, as the company says it has received test requests from countries around the world.

To avoid contracting the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular preventive measures that protect against any respiratory virus.

The CDC also urges people not to travel to China and not wear facial masks, since health officials believe they do not stop the spread of the virus. The agency also reminds people not to show prejudices towards people of Asian descent for fear of the virus.

“Don’t assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have 2019-nCoV. All people in the US UU., Including those of Asian descent, who have not traveled to China or have been in contact with someone with a confirmed or suspected case of nCoV in the last 14 days, have a low risk of getting sick, ”the CDC says.

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