Novel coronavirus remains low risk to Arizonans

Downtown Phoenix, October 4, 2019. (Nicole Neri/DD)

By Sara Edwards and Lisa Diethelm

The Novel Coronavirus has spread fear and paranoia throughout the Valley after Arizona State University confirmed one case of the virus in a student this past weekend.

The virus, also known as 2019-nCoV, is a respiratory illness that was first discovered in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. It has since spread to 16 countries, including the U.S. Currently, the virus has spread to four states, including Arizona.

According to Maricopa County’s website, the ASU student infected with the virus does not live in university housing, and there “has been no classroom exposure associated with the case.”

ASU Provost Mark Searle sent out an announcement in an email Tuesday that the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the Arizona Department of Health Services are “currently investigating to identify any close contacts that may have been exposed while the person was infectious.”

The New York Times reported Tuesday that cases are up nearly 60% in China and that 20 airports in the United States are performing screenings of travelers arriving from Wuhan. In Arizona, however, residents are at a low risk at this time.

“Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS Director, also indicated yesterday that the immediate risk of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus to the general public is believed to be low at this time,” Searle said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported similar findings.

As an extra precaution, ASU followed the CDC’s recommendations and instilled a travel restriction preventing all students and faculty from traveling to China on school-related business, including study abroad trips.

Although the risk is still low, there are still ways students and downtown community members can take precautionary steps.

The main and first action you can do is simply to wash your hands. Searle’s announcement said to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you have no access to soap and water, an alcohol-based sanitizer will work too.

The rest of the recommendations are to avoid direct contact with sick individuals, avoid touching the eyes, mouth, and nose with unwashed hands and to make sure to use tissues when blowing your nose and sneezing.

It is also important to stay home if you are showing symptoms of any sickness.

The Novel Coronavirus has similar symptoms to other respiratory diseases, and the county website stated that community members should go to their health care provider if they are showing symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from Wuhan, China, you should call ahead to a healthcare provider and mention your recent travel,” according to the county website. “Public health will work with your healthcare provider to get you tested if recommended.”

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