Chicago Hospitals Prepare for Coronavirus Despite Overall ‘Low' Risk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday it was monitoring 110 potential cases of the coronavuris

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While the U.S. State Department is advising its citizens to avoid travel to China because of the new coronavirus, travelers already in China, like Northwest Indiana resident Ken Zurek, say they are nervous about leaving.

Health officials explained several ways people can protect themselves from a coronavirus Friday, the same day officials announced a Chicago woman was diagnosed with the virus. NBC 5's Regina Waldroup reports.

"My concerns are really, basically, leaving," Zurek, who is from Highland, told NBC 5 over the phone from Wuhan. "We are leaving Feb. 4. This is when we will actually go to the airport and go and meet humans. And since this is a human-to-human disease, as far as transmission, we are worried about that."

So is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported Monday it was monitoring 110 potential cases of what it calls the novel coronavirus in 26 states. That includes the five cases already confirmed, one of which is in Illinois.

Still, the CDC said the risk in the United States is low.

"The reason why it is a public health concern is that it is a novel coronavirus, which means it has not been seen in people before," said Tiffany Wiksten, manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Rush University Medical Center. "Because it's not been seen before, we don’t know how it is going to behave."

Should things turn more serious, Chicago hospitals are ready. Rush is a federally designated ebola treatment center, Wiksten said.

"We have a special isopod where we can isolate patients …special ventilation built into it," she said. "We have a core response team ready to response should a patient show up at our door."

Wiksten advised washing one's hands if the best defense against any disease, and covering your mouth while coughing can help prevent the spread of the virus.

She encouraged anyone who becomes sick to stay home, but said anyone who recently visited China should take an extra step.

"If they have been in China and they are having respiratory symptoms: cough, difficulty breathing, fever…its always a good idea to contact their health care," Wiksten said.

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