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Hospitals, universities in Southwest Virginia preparing for coronavirus

No confirmed cases in Virginia so far

ROANOKE, Va. – As the coronavirus continues spreading, concerns are growing.

The CDC has confirmed the fifth case of the new virus in the U.S. and we’re still awaiting results to see whether it’s spread to Virginia.

Two people being investigated for possibly having the virus in Central Virginia did not test positive, but people are still on high alert.

"It's an evolving condition and given the prior history of other coronaviruses, we like to be cautious about it," said Dr. Anthony Baffoe-bonnie, medical director for infection control and infectious disease specialist at Carilion.

Health experts said it's a cause for concern based on history, with mutations of the virus in 2002 and 2012 leading to high death rates.

"The death rate related to this will probably be about 3 percent, so significantly less than what we have seen previously," Baffoe-Bonnie said.

Still, local hospitals are taking lots of extra steps to prepare.

"These are all proactive, not because we expect to see cases of it but simply to be prepared about it," Baffoe-Bonnie said.

Carilion has created emergency management and communications teams and changed the way patients are triaged based on symptoms and travel history.

It’s not just hospitals on high alert.

Universities are also keeping a close eye on the virus.

Virginia Tech sent this message to students Monday morning, saying university leaders are proactively monitoring the outbreak.

“We have spoken to, we have met with students and faculty whom we know have come from China in the last couple of weeks and we have been in communication and contact with them and they are all symptom-free and they have been advised and educated as to what to do at the earliest stages of any sort of illness,” said university spokesperson Mark Owczarski.

"I think the likelihood of having coronavirus in Virginia, especially Southwest Virginia is significantly low" Baffoe-Bonnie said.

Virginia is still not in the clear yet. Another potential case of coronavirus is under investigation in Northern Virginia. We're not expecting the health department to learn those results until later this week.

The health department has created a website to track potential and confirmed cases here in the commonwealth, specifying the exact region. Click here to access that.


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