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Healthcare officials work to prevent spread of coronavirus at the local level

CAMP HILL, Pa. — The death toll from the new coronavirus stands at 106, with 4,593 confirmed infections. All deaths and the vast majority of cases are still in ...

CAMP HILL, Pa. — The death toll from the new coronavirus stands at 106, with 4,593 confirmed infections. All deaths and the vast majority of cases are still in the Wuhan province of China, where the virus originated. Smaller numbers of cases have popped up in 14 countries, including five confirmed cases in the United States.

At this point, an outbreak in the U.S. is unlikely, public health officials said.

"The chance of getting this infection in the United States is very low," said Dr. Mohammad Ali, an infectious disease physician at Geisinger Holy Spirit Hospital.

To ensure the risk of contracting coronavirus remains low, 15 additional U.S. airports began screening for the virus, bringing to total to 20 screening airports.

Credit: FOX43
Healthcare officials work to prevent spread of coronavirus at the local level

Healthcare facilities in central Pennsylvania are also taking added precautions with their patients. WellSpan Health now includes extra information in their appointment confirmation calls, asking patients who have traveled to China within the past 30 days to call ahead before arriving for their appointment.

This isn't the first time a coronavirus spread worldwide: SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) hit in 2003, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012, and 2019-nCoV (Novel Coronavirus) this year.

Coronavirus can look a lot like a cold or the flu, but it can rapidly develop into pneumonia.

"[Patients are] having a bad cough, shortness of breath, sometimes they go on to develop respiratory failure; they can't breathe on their own," said Dr. Catharine Paules, an infectious disease physician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The mortality rate of this coronavirus is still unknown, but so far 2 percent of those with confirmed infections have died. There's no proven treatment, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are working to develop a vaccine.

"Be aware of it. Don't panic," said Dr. Ali. "And if somebody who has come back from China and they feel that they might be exposed to it and are now sick, they should get in touch with a healthcare facility as soon as possible."

Here in the U.S., you're much more likely to get the flu than coronavirus, health officials said, but either way you should keep practicing healthy hygiene like washing your hands and coughing into a tissue.

To prevent further exposure, the U.S. Department of State has issued a level 3 travel advisory on China to avoid all non-essential travel, and a level 4 travel advisory not to travel to Hubei province.