Charlotte-area hospitals are preparing for possible cases of a newly detected coronavirus after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first confirmed case in the U.S. earlier this week.
Coronaviruses usually cause respiratory illnesses and can sometimes cause pneumonia or bronchitis. Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a coronavirus.
The new coronavirus has sickened hundreds and killed at least 17 people in China since it was first detected in December. This week, the CDC announced a Seattle area-man is infected. He had spent several months in Wuhan, China, where most cases have been diagnosed.
"At this point, it's really hard to predict whether we could see cases locally," said Dr. David Priest, Chief Safety and Quality Officer at Novant Health.
Priest and Dr. Katie Passaretti, Medical Director for Infection Prevention at Atrium Health, said the risk in Charlotte is low.
"We don't have a huge population of people that would be considered high-risk exposure," Passaretti said. "So we don't have a lot of people from Wuhan City, China, coming back and forth."
Both doctors said the risk level could change if Charlotte-area residents who contracted the coronavirus returned from China before the virus had been detected, so they said health care workers need to be vigilant.
To prevent the spread of both the new coronavirus and the flu, Passaretti and Priest said people should wash their hands, stay home if they're sick and cough into their elbow.