Mass. Hospitals Preparing for Coronavirus as a Precaution

As of Wednesday morning, the viral pneumonia had killed 17 people worldwide

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Airports around the world are stepping up procedures to protect from the coronavirus outbreak, and although Boston Logan International Airport isn’t quite at that stage, Bay State hospitals are preparing just in case.

“We and other hospitals are setting up screening protocols so that if we do get a person who might have this disease that we identify them early based on travel history,” said Dr. David Hooper, chief of infection control at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A mysterious illness that has sickened hundreds is prompting mandatory screenings at multiple airports in the U.S., but Logan is not one of them.

Already, the viral pneumonia has caused 17 deaths, affecting people in China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. U.S. health officials confirmed Tuesday that a Seattle, Washington, resident had contracted the virus.

To prepare and prevent the illness from spreading locally, Massachusetts hospitals are setting up screening protocols as a precaution.

Although Logan Airport hasn’t ordered mandatory screenings for travelers, area hospitals are preparing just in case the Bay State is hit with the coronavirus.

Symptoms of the newly discovered virus include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and fever. Health officials said the illness was probably spread from animals to people, and Chinese authorities say it can spread from person to person.

Although U.S. health officials say the overall risk to the American public is low, the Center for Disease Control said more cases in the U.S. are expected to arise.

A new pneumonia-like illness has health authorities on the alert as new cases are discovered in more countries, including the United States. Health experts say the coronavirus is not as deadly as SARS, but is still highly contagious.

Anyone who experiences similar symptoms and has visited any of the affected areas is encouraged to see a doctor.

Massachusetts' Department of Public Health says it's monitoring the outbreak as well, in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The risk to Massachusetts residents from this novel coronavirus is currently low, however, this is the season for respiratory viruses including the flu and many of the same recommended precautions apply to coronaviruses," the DPH said in a statement.

"People should continue taking precautions to avoid illness, including urging people with flu-like illnesses to stay home, washing hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and covering coughs," it continued.

Nearly 300 people have been infected by the coronavirus, with new cases reported in China's capital and other nearby countries. China is scrambling to contain the contagious strain amid heavy travel for Lunar Near Year.
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