Local medical intelligence firm monitoring coronavirus

Published: Jan. 22, 2020 at 7:18 PM PST
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This most recent coronavirus, called by some the Wuhan virus, is part of a group of viruses which causes respiratory infections.

Back in 2003 one of the better known coronavirus outbreaks called SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome knocked the world back on its heels.

At the time no one had ever seen a virus like SARS. No one knew how infectious or deadly SARS was.

But as world-wide attention focused on SARS more answers became apparent through innovation and investigation.

“Not only China, but the entire Pacific Region and here as well, is that we now have advanced diagnostics, that give a pretty good diagnosis of what the virus is,” says Dr. James Wilson. “What the sub-type of the virus is. In very short order. Sometimes hours. And so what that has created is now we are aware that there are coronaviruses that circulate in our routine respiratory baseline every year.”

Wilson is part of M2 Medical Intelligence. It's a local firm that tracks unusual medical or health outbreaks around the world.

He says in this case, China was able to announce the emergence of a respiratory illness in a specific region in their country which allowed research and information to stretch across the world.

While we don't know everything we'd like to know about this recent outbreak, experiences with diseases like SARS will make that knowledge easier to come by.

Airports around the country are screening people for the disease.

Another line of defense will come from emergency rooms where personnel will ask about foreign travel should a patient present with symptoms of respiratory infection and high fever.

Wilson says the average Nevadan should put the latest developments in Asia of 17 deaths and 500 cases caused by the coronavirus in perspective.

It’s scary, he says, and we don't know how much higher those numbers can go.

But we do know there are far more serious diseases that can be fatal, but for which we have a vaccine.

“The chances of you as an individual coming in contact with this virus is excruciatingly low. The chances of you coming in contact with influenza here in Reno? Very high,” he says.

The best way to protect yourself against this or any other virus: Practice good hygiene. That includes washing hands frequently, and covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020