Local health officials say coronavirus risk is low

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - No cases of the virus have been reported in Ohio, and the Ohio Department of Health says its taking proactive steps to keep it that way.

Patients in Macomb and Washtenaw counties are being tested for the coronavirus. (MGN Image)

Locally, experts say the risk of coronavirus is very low. In fact, they say the only way to contract the disease is if you recently traveled to the infected areas of China or have been in close contact with someone who has.

Dr. Courtney Keel says everyone should remain calm.

"Right now, it's still a very, very low risk," said Dr. Keel.

She works in the emergency room at St. Vincent Medical Center. Dr. Keel says the hospital is taking proactive measures to combat the coronavirus.

"We just ask questions, have you been outside the country in the last two weeks, have you been in contact with anyone outside the country in the last two weeks? Because it is flu season, it is cold season, so people are coming in with these illnesses," said Dr. Keel.

The deadly strain of the coronavirus that originated in China is novel, meaning it's a form never seen before.

Locally, no cases have been reported, but a man in Washington state and a woman in Chicago are being treated for the infection.

"Just because you visited Chicago doesn't mean you're infected with the coronavirus," said Lucas County Health Department commissioner Eric Zgodzinski.

In fact, Zgodzinski says the only way you would be, is if you were in close contact with an infected person or if you went to China yourself recently.

Even though the risk is low, the health department is prepared should disaster strike.

"I'm not saying that we're experts on this, but we've been through this before. We've been through SARS and small pox and Ebola, H1N1 and the list is relatively lengthy for this community," said Zgodzinski.

Coronavirus symptoms are similar to the common cold or the flu. Usually, those with the illness have respiratory problems like a cough, shortness of breath, and a fever.

Symptoms can appear anytime between two days and two weeks after exposure.

Right now, there's no vaccination and experts say as far as prevention goes, the tried and true methods like hand washing work best.

"Really it's the same thing you do for the normal cold virus, which we recommend during this time of year anyway," said Dr. Keel.

"We're all being very diligent and being proactive, but we need to state that this is low risk for the U.S. right now," said Zgodzinski.

At this time, the Toledo Express Airport is not implementing public health screenings for travelers.

"The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and our mutual aid partners have engaged with the Lucas County Health Department and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, and are prepared to implement procedures at Toledo Express Airport as directed. Currently, regional domestic airports are not yet deemed to be at risk," said Holly Kemler, Director of Communications at The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.