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County medical director Onufrak on Novel coronavirus: "It's a low threat for the U.S."

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Posted at 6:58 PM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 20:51:02-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — While the coronavirus is posing serious concerns worldwide, it is not necessarily a death sentence.

"It's a low threat for the U.S.," said Nueces County Health District Medical Director Dr. Kim Onufrak. "What they've seen is, it is hitting the older population. People with comorbidities like diabetes, high blood pressure. So the usual population that would get hit hard by any virus."

It sounds like the flu.

"So you have fevers, chills, body aches," she said. "You have cough, congestion, sometimes you have sore throat. Sometimes you are going to have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea."

This particular strain that is causing concern is the 2019 Novel coronavirus.

Onufrak said the city is prepared if it ends up with a case of the viral respiratory illness.

"If you feel like you're sick, call your health provider ahead of time so precautions can be made," Dr. Onufrak said. "Right now, it's just home quarantine. So we urge -- if you feel like you've been exposed to the virus, just stay at home."

The Centers for Disease Control is the only laboratory in the country that currently can test for Novel coronavirus, if you meet the criteria.

"If you came or traveled from Wuhan, China," she said. "If you've been exposed to someone who has been tested positive for the 2019 Novel coronavirus."

The coronavirus has been in the United States before, just not this specific strain.

Like with anything that is contagious, Onufrak said the precautions are the same.

"If you're sick stay home," she said. "If you cough, cover your cough. Cover your sneeze. Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face."

Onufrak said, back in 2003, the United States experienced another coronavirus strain called SARS.

According to the World Health Organization, about 8,100 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak. Of those, 774 died.

In the United States, only eight people had laboratory evidence of the SARS infection.