MAINE, USA — The Maine Center for Disease Control announced Monday that for the first time, it has tested someone in Maine for the Coronavirus.
Test results are expected in the next few days.
The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China has infected more than 40,000 people around the world and killed more than 1,000 people, including one American in China.
But health officials here in Maine say the risk to the general public is low.
To educate and ease fears about the Coronavirus, CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah and Dr. Dora Mills, Senior Vice President of Community Health for Maine Health joined Maine Public's Jennifer Rooks for an episode of Maine Calling.
"We at the Maine CDC are actively engaged and prepared in the nationwide and worldwide effort to make sure if a case were to occur in Maine we're ready," Dr. Shah said.
Dr. Shah says they focus on the Three I's.
Identify potential cases. If there are any signs or symptoms, rapidly Isolate and then epidemiologists will Investigate any cases and anyone who may have come in contact with those people.
Dr. Mills says doctors and hospitals are ready, too. Three weeks ago, healthcare providers started asking people who come into their offices with flu-like symptoms if they've traveled to China, lately.
If that person answers yes, they would be asked to put on a mask and wait in a private room until a specialist can examine them.
Those kinds of precautions are not being done in China, which is why so many people there have become infected with Coronavirus and why the death toll has passed 1,000 people...while here in the U.S., only 13 people have been diagnosed.
Dr. Dora Mills talks about everything from how bats from China may have transmitted this virus to similarities to the SARS virus in 2003. She also touches on how the coronavirus is treated.
"It seems to be very contagious in China however they are a different culture, they have a different system we have we don't know if it would be as contagious as here in the U.S." Dr. Mills said.
What's working in our favor Dr. Mills says is the government's travel restrictions.
"Our country hasn't implemented this strict of travel restrictions for decades. I've never seen it implemented so strictly."
Dr. Mills says the Coronavirus seems to be contagious in the same way the flu is, through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing.
Mills says the best way to prevent the virus is the same way you prevent the flu...frequently wash your hands and don't touch your face.
But is that enough? Should people be concerned?
Both Dr. Mills and Dr. Shah say the risk of anyone in Maine or in the US contracting the Coronavirus is very low. But that the concern is understandable.
"When we have an epidemic there is always two epidemics. there is the epidemic with disease and there is one with fear" says Dr. Mills.
Dr. Shah said the bigger threat is the flu, which has already killed 13 people in Maine, and we're not even at the peak of the season.
"There have been 13 people, sadly, in Maine associated with seasonal influenza. 13 deaths. That's more deaths in Maine than there have been in the entire country of cases of Coronavirus" said Dr. Shah.
Dr. Shah says the flu suffers from an image problem.
"The image of the flu is that's it's benign or innocuous. Maybe what we need to do as a public health community is rename the flu to Infectious Virus XK2 Alpha which would get people concerned about it because the fact is the flu is very, very serious."
Both Dr. Shah and Dr. Mills say if you haven't gotten a flu shot this year it is not too late. They say it will not only protect you but also the people around you. And if you were immunized and you still get the flu, the doctors say your symptoms will less severe.