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Local health officials take precautions as coronavirus spreads to U.S.

San Francisco health officials have taken steps to ensure The City is prepared in case an individual becomes infected with the new type of coronavirus that originated last month in Wuhan, China.

Dr. Susan Philip, director of Disease Prevention and Control division for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said at a media briefing Friday that there have been no confirmed cases in The City.

Philip said:

“We are actively, however, monitoring this very rapid, evolving situation and preparing to protect and ensure health of all San Franciscans.”

According to an update provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 21, 2020:

“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people; numerous other coronaviruses circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).”

NIH Image Gallery/Flickr MERS coronavirus particles.

San Francisco health officials are sharing with the public information about the virus and what to do if a person believes they may have contracted disease.

Philip said at this time that residents of The City and Bay area have a low-risk of becoming infected with the virus unless the person had traveled to Wuhan, China or came into contact with a person who had traveled there.

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms are similar to the flu and Philip said there is nothing clinically to distinguish the two. She said people concerned they’ve been exposed need further evaluation.

Philip recommends anyone with symptoms who have recently visited Wuhan call their healthcare provider first and share their travel history.

The public health department activated its Departmental Operations Center on Jan. 21 to organize and prepare in case someone in The City becomes infected.

The center has issued health advisories to city providers, communicated with all city hospitals, is working with the Department of Emergency Preparedness and establishing transport protocols with ambulances providers. They are also arranging a delivery plan for specimens that need to be sent to the CDC.

Additionally, the center has been in contact with San Francisco International Airport to plan transportation of patients who may have contracted the virus.

Health officials said it is still cold and flu season and people should follow preventative health protocols like regularly washing their hands, getting a flu shot, covering their mouth or nose when coughing and sneezing and staying home when sick.

So far, the CDC has reported two confirmed cases in the United States. Both had traveled from Wuhan.

The CDC reported the first case Jan. 21 — the patient had flown from Wuhan to Washington on Jan. 15. The second person, who returned to Illinois from Wuhan Jan. 13, was reported Friday.

A number of airports, including SFO, are screening passengers traveling Wuhan, the CDC said.

Hundreds in China have been infected with the virus in China and dozens have already died as a result.

The public can stay informed about the spread of the virus on the CDC website.

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