ST. LOUIS – The novel coronavirus outbreak has now been classified as an international public health emergency, but what does that mean for everyone in our area?
The World Health Organization says there are 98 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in 18 countries outside of China, 6 of them in the United States. The most recent case—a man in Chicago, Illinois—is the first confirmed instance of the virus transferring from person-to-person. The man’s wife had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the virus began.
St. Louis-based Dr. Ken Haller, SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, says people here shouldn’t worry.
“The chance of anyone in St. Louis area at this point coming in contact with the coronavirus from Wuhan, China is extremely small,” he said
Dr. Haller says the handful of cases in the United States at this point is very small. And he says the CDC has gotten out in front of this virus.
“We've heard so much about it, it’s natural for people to be scared about this,” he said. “For themselves and their kids. The thing is—for this—the chance of it being a problem for you here in the St. Louis area is extremely small.”
Dr. Haller says the coronavirus is transmitted the way the common cold and the flu is: via droplets by sneezing into the air or getting it on your hands and then touching your nose
“The way to keep it away from yourself and your kids is to just wash your hands. Make sure if you sneeze, you sneeze into your hands,” he said. “And if people are showing respiratory symptoms, it’s best for them not to be around other people.”
While the coronavirus isn’t anything to be overly concerned with in the St. Louis area now, Dr. Haller says it’s a reminder to take flu prevention seriously. He says 8,000 people in the US died in the last year died of the flu.
“So you haven’t had your flu vaccine or your child hasn’t had the flu vaccine, this is the time to get it,” he said. “In the thick of the flu season and this is going to be one of the worst flu seasons in years.”