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Local public health officials prepare if coronavirus hits Central Nebraska

Patients in Macomb and Washtenaw counties are being tested for the coronavirus. (MGN Image)
Patients in Macomb and Washtenaw counties are being tested for the coronavirus. (MGN Image)(WJRT)
Published: Jan. 27, 2020 at 6:54 PM CST
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Although there haven't been any confirmed cases of the corornavirus in Nebraska, local public health departments have a plan if the infection hits home.

The risk of getting the coronavirus in the United States is pretty low. Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, said the chance of getting it in Nebraska is just as low.

So far, the CDC has confirmed

of the coronavirus across the U.S. in Washington, California, Arizona and Illinois. There are 110 people across 26 states being evaluated for the infection. So far 32 of them have come up negative.

The first case of the coronavirus was found in Wuhan, China. Since then, 13 countries outside of mainland China have reported cases. As of now, 82 people have died from the virus.

"As the illness is maybe more severe that death rate gets higher, because the disease is more severe. As it gets the ability to transfer more easily from human to human that's when the spread is of even more concern," Bever said.

The coronavirus presents symptoms similar to the flu. They include runny nose, fever, sore throat, headache and sometimes pneumonia. You can be contagious with the virus before symptoms appear.

Since we're in peak flu season, Bever said it's more likely for people in Central Nebraska to catch influenza than the coronavirus. But since both viruses have similar symptoms, you can protect yourself from both using the same methods.

Bever said you should always wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Try not to touch your face, especially your eyes or mouth. It's also good practice to make sure surfaces or commonly used areas in your workplace are disinfected. Bever said you should try to sneeze or cough into a tissue to prevent the spread of viruses in the air.

Bever said if a case of coronavirus does pop up, the health department is prepared with their own pandemic plan.

"Locally we plan for how information that we would share with the right stakeholders, whether that's healthcare providers that might be seeing cases potentially to understand what the testing is going to be for that. All those things that are sort of in the background, we're working on those things," Bever said.

Bever said they're having a meeting this week with hospitals and emergency managers to make sure if there's a case of the coronavirus here they know exactly what to do.

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