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The recent outbreak of a novel Coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China in December is spreading throughout China and to other countries. There are important facts you should know.

Coronaviruses are not new.  It is a family of viruses that can cause mild to severe respiratory illness in humans. The virus causing this current outbreak is a novel, or new version of a coronavirus from China and is causing worldwide concern because it has made some people very ill and some have died.  Many of those who have died are elderly or have other health conditions that put them at higher risk.  Many others have had only mild illness.  Treatment is supportive care and there is currently no vaccine.

At the time of this writing, there have been 11 confirmed cases in the U.S. Nine of these cases had a history of travel to China.  Two of the 11 confirmed cases contracted the illness after exposure to a family member (known cases) who had traveled to China.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes that at this time we are not seeing sustained person-to-person transmission in the U.S. and that the risk to the general American public is low at present. In fact, the numbers show that persons are much more likely to be infected with the influenza virus than the new coronavirus.

Recommended strategies to prevent the spread of respiratory viral infections (including influenza and coronavirus) are frequent handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home if sick, and getting flu vaccination.  The Health Department still has a good supply of vaccine, including high dose for seniors.  Walk-ins are welcome at the Oakland location at 1025 Memorial Drive, Monday through Friday. 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

At this time, there are no confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus in Maryland, and updates will be posted to: https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Novel-coronavirus.aspx

The Garrett County Health Department is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation. The CDC has supplied all health care providers with guidance.

Authorities are recommending that all non-essential travel to China be stopped and U.S. citizens in China are being returned to the U.S. as a measure of caution.

It is important to notify your doctor if you develop fever, shortness of breath or upper respiratory symptoms AND have traveled to or from China in recent weeks. If you have these symptoms and a travel history to China, or contact with a known case, make sure you call ahead to your healthcare provider so they can appropriately plan for your care.

If you have any questions or concerns, call your health care provider, or the Health Department at 301 334-7770 or 301 895-5355.