TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Health authorities across Arizona are closely watching the latest outbreak of coronavirus, a respiratory illness caused by a new virus from China.
Authorities have confirmed the virus can spread from person to person, but there’s a lot they still don’t know about it.
As of Thursday, Jan. 30, there has been only one confirmed case of coronavirus in Arizona. The infected person is an Arizona State University community member. Authorities said the person had recently returned from Wuhan, China.
KOLD News 13 checked with several Tucson-area hospitals and we were referred to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
ADHS spokesman Chris Minnick said several Arizona residents have been tested for the virus and samples have been sent to the CDC. Minnick was unable to tell us how many people have been tested or where they live.
“The samples we send to CDC for testing are only for those individuals who meet the case definition or have direct contact with a confirmed case,” Minnick said in an email. “As we get more information from our contact investigation we may identify additional contacts for whom we request testing. We will update the public if we identify any additional confirmed cases.”
This new coronavirus is in the same family of viruses that can cause the common cold or more severe illnesses such as SARS.
Although scientists believe it originated with animals, the virus now seems to be spreading from person to person. Most of the reported cases outside of China involved people who recently traveled there.
Fever, cough and shortness of breath are common with coronavirus. In severe cases, patients have pneumonia in both lungs.
There is no specific antiviral treatment for coronavirus. Medical care can help relieve the symptoms.
Operators at 911 centers across southern Arizona are screening calls for possible cases of coronavirus.
ADHS confirmed the state’s first case Sunday, Jan. 26. The following day, experts offered resources and guidelines from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services for first responders to limit their exposure to coronavirus.
Before those emergency crews respond to a situation, 911 operators will ask some additional questions to people who mention respiratory issues.
The city of Tucson and the Pima County Health Department met on Monday, Jan. 27, to discuss health protocols for the 2020 Gem Show.
The Gem Show attracts visitors, buyers, vendors and owners from all over the globe, including many from China.
It isn’t known how many of the vendors may have traveled to China in recent months, but it is an issue the city believes it needs to investigate.
"We discussed what's going to be our preparedness plan in case we see folks who have traveled to China," said Andy Squire, a spokesperson for the city managers office and one of the organizers of the Gem Show. "That really is the issue."
The Pima County Health Department calls the virus novel.
"It's brand new," said Paula Handel, the deputy director of the department, "It's so new we are learning as it progresses."
For the time being they are treating the virus much the same as the flu virus.
Cover your cough, wash your hands often and thoroughly, stay home from work if you feel ill and go to the doctor is you suspect the flu.
The University of Arizona Global Chinese New Year Festival Show has been canceled because of concerns related to the coronavirus.
The show was scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, at Centennial Hall.
According to a news release from the university, the show was canceled “due to travel concerns and related challenges arising from the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.” Associated festival activities will be postponed until further notice.