SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The illness is spreading like wildfire across the world – the Noval Coronavirus. There are now more than 80,000 people infected in 41 different countries.
There are no confirmed cases here in Florida and the 57 cases in the United States all have ties to visits to and from China. However, even though it’s not here yet, officials say it’s time to start making safety measures.
“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of when this will happen and how many people in this country will become infected,” Anne Schuchat, from The Centers for Disease Control, said on Tuesday.
There have been so many confirmed cases outside of China within a very small period of time, U.S. health authorities have had no choice but to make an official warning.
"We don't know when it's going to be here or how severe it's going to be, so preparation for this event is going to be very important," Dr. Manuel Gordillo, Epidemiologist for Sarasota Memorial Hospital, explained.
The Florida Department of Health says it has joined forces with the CDC to monitor the outbreak, and all health institutions and schools across the nation are now putting plans in place.
"In terms of emergency response, how we will handle large numbers of cases and things like that,” Dr. Seetha Lakshmi, Epidemiologist at Tampa General Hospital and Assistant Professor at USF, told us.
Our local hospitals are doing the same.
"We have activated teams and trained teams to take care of these types of patients at very different levels,” Dr. Gordillo said.
As for personal preparing, officials say there's no reason to panic, but implementing changes in your daily life activities can help.
"We can take examples from some other countries who have had to handle this like making sure that they provide tele-working options, decreasing crowd mixing, easing sick-leave policies, and also providing people more options to work from home,” said Dr. Lakshmi.
"Just stay informed. This is going to be very important. We are Floridians. We are very familiar with how to stay informed when hurricanes are coming. We are always carefully monitoring the information. That’s what we have to do with this, and follow the preparations and instructions. Be alert and don’t be too complacent,” explained Dr. Gordillo.
While there is no preventative vaccine or antiviral treatment for the Coronavirus right now, there are ways Americans can prevent being infected. Health officials say though to remember to always wash your hands thoroughly, and never touch your eyes or mouth after touching any surfaces.
Plus, if you feel sick, the best thing to do is go see a doctor immediately.