Mississippi closely monitoring coronavirus outbreak but no cases currently reported

Updated: Jan. 31, 2020 at 7:07 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -There are no confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus in Mississippi. But here’s what’s being done to prepare for a worst case scenario.

“We do think that it’s very likely that we’ll have people come to Mississippi who will be either suspects for this new coronavirus or may potentially have this coronavirus in the near future,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

Because of that, the responsibility of preparing falls less on you and more on the health care providers.

“Right now we feel like the risk is low to the general public," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. "It’s important to remember to get this virus, you have to be exposed to it.”

Hospitals and doctor’s offices would be on the front lines of tackling that issue.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center has been doing travel screenings for years. And they've updated that since the coronavirus outbreak.

“Every patient who comes in to the hospital through the emergency department or the outpatient facility may be asked if they’ve traveled internationally or not," explained UMMC Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases and hospital epidemiology Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele. "And if they do say they went to China and have been to Wuhan and have any symptoms like fever or cough or shortness of breath, then we would immediately alert the provider.”

And they know the protocol they would follow.

“In addition to our negative airflow isolation rooms, we would put patients in masks to take them to those rooms," said UMMC Director of Infection Prevention Shelia Fletcher. "We have all of the appropriate personal protective equipment to protect themselves from transmission.”

That includes gowns, gloves, masks and eye protection. The Department of Health advises that anyone who believes they may have the coronavirus first call their provider before just showing up.

Another important thing to note is that the symptoms, fever, cough and shortness of breath, are similar to the flu. If you haven’t been traveling internationally, the health department says your biggest concern right now should be protecting yourself from the flu.

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