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UIHC implements protocols for new Coronavirus but risk to Iowans remains low, says IDPH

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University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) -- As the number of confirmed cases of a new Coronavirus rises in the U.S., now up to five, hospitals across the country including the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics are preparing for potential patients.

California, Oregon, Arizona, and Illinois are among the state with infected patients, according to the CDC as of yesterday.

Globally there are 2,798 confirmed cases and 80 deaths, according to the World Health Organization's latest situation report.

However, the immediate risk to Iowans is low, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Nonetheless, steps and protocols are in place at the Univesity of Iowa Hospital and clinics should someone become sick.

U.I.H.C is part of a network of hospitals in the U.S. for the treatment of patients who have infections that are very contagious or that have a high mortality rate in the midwest region, said Assistant Professor of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Jorge Salinas.

"Fortunately, as of this moment, there is no evidence of person to person transmission of this Novel Coronavirus in the United States, but while we monitor how things are evolving globally and domestically, hospitals need to be prepared."

UIHC biocontainment
File shot from a 2017 UIHC bio-containment exercise

The C.D.C. is urging health care professionals to be on the lookout to those who have recently traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus.

That's part of the protocol that's already in place at U.I.H.C. which also includes drills with biocontainment gear.

"The five cases reported as of this minute in the United States had all been in Wuhan City," said Salinas.

Staff at U.I.H.C. have been prepared for something like this for years and are now screening incoming patients.

"A travel screen is prompted in electronic health records to the person doing the check-ins. They ask patients whether they've traveled, where they have been, over what period of time and if they have any symptoms," said Salinas.

Any possible cases would be isolated in a specialized unit and tested in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health.

However, for now, that risk remains low.

"You are not at risk currently in the United States. If you are here and you have not been Wuhan City, you develop upper respiratory symptoms, it is going to be due to a more regular infection. Either the common cold or influenza," said Salinas.

So far of the cases confirmed in the United States, Dr. Salinas said they seem to be milder and not require treatment in an intensive care unit.

The immediate risk to the public is still considered low at this time, according to the CDC. However, the agency is encouraging the public to take precautions to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, similar to precautions taken for the flu.

The CDC recommends:

The University of Iowa also issued an alert to students and staff. It asks anyone who has recently visited China and is experiencing possible symptoms to reach out to the school's Nurseline at 319-335-9704.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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