Louisiana monitoring Chinese Coronavirus after confirmed US case

Updated: Jan. 21, 2020 at 8:42 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Traveling is hard enough but can be made even worse if you’re sick.

“I don’t want to get a cold, don’t want to be sick at all,” traveler Leslie Kelly said.

United States health officials are now cautioning travelers about a mysterious coronavirus. The respiratory virus first appeared in the Chinese province of Wuhan, but doctors confirmed a case of coronavirus in Washington state.

LSU Health infectious disease doctor Fred Lopez says this is still an incredibly new disease. The key will be finding out how easy it’s transmitted from human to human.

“It’s behaving a lot like other respiratory tract illnesses including the coronavirus infection, remember coronaviruses involve SARS from a few years back,” Lopez said.

According to the CDC, they began implementing public health screenings in January at major airports to catch patients with the virus coming from China and other Asian countries. However, Lopez says sometimes those symptoms don't present for weeks.

The CDC will now be adding more screenings at both the Atlanta and Chicago airports and travelers have mixed reactions.

“Wash your hands, don’t touch your face after touching the public spots,” Alli Vartanian said.

“I believe that DHH and everyone else will do a good job of screening for it, and I trust the airport, I trust it,” Fitzpatrick Pitts said.

A spokesperson for the New Orleans airport says right now there are no immediate actions or screenings they’re implementing. However, they say they’re always monitoring the situation and encourage travelers to do the same.

“We may see screenings or at least people screened coming to Louisiana and the state of Louisiana monitoring those people. Again, we don’t currently see that people are that contagious and the need for that but it might come to that,” said Dr. Frank Welch with the Louisiana Department of Health.

The Louisiana Department of Health has not required New Orleans airport to implement health screenings. Rather, Dr. Frank Welch says they've directed all health care facilities to ask patients of their travel history and if they have any flu-like symptoms, and then immediately report the case if it fits the coronavirus criteria.

“The recommendation is kind of to shelter in place, stay where you are, call the state of Louisiana and the CDC will help you move forward,” Welch said.

So far, he says there haven't been any reported cases in Louisiana, but some travelers are already taking precautions.

“I have my Clorox wipes in my purse, I’m wiping everything down when I get on the plane,” Leslie Kelly said.

Both city and health leaders say they’re closely monitoring the situation, but encourage you to take good hygiene and handwashing measure to protect against the coronavirus especially because there is no vaccine or anti-viral to treat it.

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