HOUSTON – A viral outbreak in China has health officials in the United States concerned after one case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Washington State this week.
While the virus has not yet reached Houston, so far there have been at least 17 deaths and more than 500 cases of the virus in China.
“We are being very vigilant. You do a little bit of math, it’s about a 2% case fatality rate, that’s extremely high for a viral illness ” said Dr. David Persse, the local health authority for the Houston Health Department.
Persse says all Houston hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices have been put on alert to be on the lookout for symptoms in patients, which can present similarly to the common cold or the flu.
He said because the symptoms are so similar, it will be “a little more difficult to figure out who has this infection versus that infection based on symptoms alone so that’s going to be a challenge for health professionals.”
Persse suggests as soon as someone thinks they’re ill, it’s important for them to go to a doctor and get tested.
The U.S. is routing all Wuhan-originating airline passengers to five airports where health screenings will take place this week. Those airports are New York’s Kennedy airport, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Atlanta.
Houston airport officials do not expect to be added to the list.
“We don’t have direct flights from Wuhan, China. We are in close contact with our partners at the Centers for Disease Control and local and state health officials. As of yet, our partners haven’t seen the need to implement additional screening for this virus at Houston airports,” said Houston Airport System spokesperson Augusto Bernal.
The World Health Organization held a day-long meeting with experts on the virus Wednesday. They will decide Thursday whether to declare coronavirus a global health emergency.
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