LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global health emergency Thursday. It comes on the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of a person-to-person transmission of the illness within the United States.
“Outside of China, there’s much less transmission and that obviously applies to us with only one case so far,” Dr. Paul Schultz, an infectious disease expert with Norton Healthcare, said.
The coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China, has now made its way to other countries. But Dr. Schultz said it’s not surprising there’s been a transmission of the respiratory illness.
“I don’t think that was that unexpected. In fact, it maybe took longer than a lot of us thought it would,” Dr. Schultz said. “I certainly would encourage people not to panic. Things are moving very slowly in the United States. They will probably continue to move slowly. We’ll probably have some more transmissions, it would be surprising if we didn’t.”
Dr. Schultz said relative to other illnesses, like Ebola, coronoavirus hasn’t killed as many people and isn’t spreading within the U.S. quickly.
“If you hear the reports from the CDC on the cases that have been identified in the states, they have been described as mild to moderate illnesses. People, I think in all cases, have been hospitalized, but primarily because we don’t know and so they wanted to have them under close observation,” he said.
With the first person-to-person transmission case confirmed in Chicago, Dr. Schultz says it’s possible Louisville could see the illness.
“It’s possible that somebody could get infected in Chicago and travel to Louisville,” he said.
But, according to Dr. Schultz, Norton healthcare staff has already been on the lookout for the symptoms and is prepared on how to handle a potential case.
“When we have somebody that we think could be a case, we’re going to get them in isolation quickly, we’ll contact the local and state health departments connected to the CDC and then we’ll go from there,” Dr. Schultz said. “We are going to start doing some screening. We’re of course prepared to evaluate people if we identify someone who could be the case and we’re very familiar with making the phone calls that go along with that.”
Health officials are taking over-precautionary measures. But Dr. Schultz said it’s not likely people will contract the illness.
“If you know that you were in direct contact, it’s gonna be probably more likely that it’s this coronavirus. But outside of that, it’s still going to be statistically much more likely that somebody has influenza, for instance, because we’re still in influenza season,” Dr. Schultz said.
In the meantime, when it comes to the regular flu season, doctors still urge it’s not too late to get a shot.
More from WHAS11: