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New coronavirus: Who's at risk?

Will County doctor says unlikely virus will come to Will County

Dr. Atul Gupta
Dr. Atul Gupta

A new coronavirus – “2019-nCoV – a respiratory virus, first detected in Wuhan City China, now has two cases confirmed in the U.S., with reports that the second is a Chicago resident.

Speaking via email with Herald-News features editor Denise M. Baran-Unland, Dr. Atul Gupta, chairman of infection control for Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, shared details of the virus.

Baran-Unland: What is a coronavirus?

Gupta: Coronavirus is a virus that causes respiratory infections. It is one of the common viruses we see this time of year. This coronavirus from China is a mutated form of the virus that is causing more severe illness and even some deaths. It is not the common coronavirus we have here in Illinois.

Baran-Unland: How is it transmitted? 

Gupta: Transmission is usually by breathing in droplets containing the virus coughed up by someone who is actively infected. Also, the virus can be picked up from surfaces and then get into the body from touching your eyes or mouth or nose.

Baran-Unland: Who’s at risk? 

Gupta: Typically the infection is mild and goes away on its own after a few days, but if you have lung disease or a weak immune system you can have a more severe infection.

Baran-Unland: How is it prevented?

Gupta: As with most viral illnesses, prevention is focused on hand washing and use of hand sanitizer. Those already infected can reduce the spread of infection by wearing masks and avoiding coughing and sneezing on other people or surfaces. There is no vaccine for coronavirus.

For this new coronavirus coming from China, screening has been initiated at major airports to prevent the spread into the U.S. Also, China has just announced that it is limiting travel from the city where the outbreak is occurring.

Baran-Unland: How is it treated? 

Gupta: There currently is no specific treatment. As with most viruses, plenty of rest is the best way to recover quickly. If the infection becomes severe, hospitalization may be required.

Baran-Unland: Any tips for travelers?

Gupta: Again, hand washing and sanitizer are the most effective ways to prevent infection. When travelling by plane, use wipes to clean the armrests and tray tables before using them.

I also recommend using wipes on grocery carts and other surfaces that have been used by many other people before you.

Baran-Unland: Is Will County at risk? 

Gupta: As of now, we are extremely unlikely to see this new coronavirus here locally, due to precautions being taken in China and in our own airports.

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