(WYTV) – The coronavirus outbreak continues to spread and the death toll continues to rise, including here in the United States, where there have now been six deaths tied COVID-19. Dozens of others have come down with the disease.
Local health experts are preparing themselves for the outbreak to worsen.
As the number of known COVID-19 cases in the country has doubled in just the last week, up to around 90, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports the number of people who have died from the flu has grown by 2,000 in the same period.
“It’s still low risk for sure. Like I said, I think you have a better chance of contracting influenza at this point,” said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac.
Tekac says the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may present like those with the flu or even the common cold. But after the first deaths from the virus were recorded over the weekend, the CDC is now urging those who think they may be getting sick to take action.
“At least reach out to your physician or your hospital setting and call ahead of time and start that process to see if they should test you for it,” Tekac said.
While scientists and health experts are working on potential vaccines and treatments for the virus, Tekac says some of the best forms of prevention are just like those for the cold and flu, specifically handwashing, as well as covering coughs and sneezes.
“If you know somebody who’s sick, we wanna social distance from them. So, even if I’m sick, I should be staying home from work, staying away from family members and friends until I’m better,” Tekac said.
Although there have still been no confirmed cases in either Ohio or Pennsylvania, local experts do have plans in place to follow based on drills they hold throughout the year.
“There’s a scenario that plays out and we go through a whole day and just practice this event to see what we do very well and then see what we can build on,” Tekac said.
For now, local experts are in frequent contact with officials in Columbus, including twice-weekly conference calls with health commissioners from all 88 counties and the state.