News coverage of viral outbreaks prompts phone calls to epidemiologists and health professionals — Gila County’s Public Health Director has been fielding queries over the past few weeks, and shared this update about the coronavirus.

The good news is this as with similar to other, more common, contagions — awareness and preventative hygiene are the best ways to stay healthy.

“Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection, the best way to prevent any respiratory infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus,” said Gila County’s public health director Michael O’Driscoll.

“This includes washing your hands often with soap and water — and for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; again, often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands — and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

When you are sick, stay home and get well — rather than infecting your coworkers.

And always — always — cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

“Another precaution: get a flu vaccine! To be clear, the flu shot does not protect against coronavirus. That’s a different virus. But the early signs of both are similar: respiratory symptoms, like coughing and fever. If you get your flu shot, you may have a bit more peace of mind if you start coughing.

The flu shot isn’t perfect, but it prevents many cases of flu and can make others less severe. More importantly, it will reduce the number of us who get flu — and reduces pressure on diagnostic, clinical and health systems as this coronavirus story unfolds.”

What is the 2019 novel coronavirus?

Gila County Public Health staff closely track reports from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and distribute up-to-date information about outbreaks. Connect on Facebook, search keywords “Gila County Health And Emergency Management” to join a community of 2,000 who follow news and alerts about health and safety.

Epidemiologists report the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak originated in China in December, and has been linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible zoonotic origin. Human-to-human transmission was confirmed in January; cases have been confirmed in China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and (as of Jan. 21) in the United States.

People infected with 2019-nCoV show symptoms including fever and/or acute respiratory symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath. Read more at

Where do coronaviruses come from?

According to the CDC: “human coronaviruses are common throughout the world. Seven different coronaviruses, that scientists know of, can infect people and make them sick. Some human coronaviruses were identified many years ago and some have been identified recently. Human coronaviruses commonly cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide. Two newer human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS, have been known to frequently cause severe illness.”

Coronaviruses are common in many different species of animals, including camels and bats. Rarely, these coronaviruses can evolve and infect humans and then spread between humans; SARS and MERS are recent examples. Most coronaviruses infect animals, but not people. Epidemiologists continue to research why only certain coronaviruses are able to infect people.

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