UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica (File photo)

Despite confirmed cases of coronavirus in Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Clara counties this week, local health officials said residents have little to worry about as long as they take the necessary precautions.

The Virus

Since December 2019, Chinese authorities have identified thousands of human infections and dozens of deaths that are associated with the coronavirus in an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s website states.

However, officials believe there is no immediate threat to the general public; no special precautions are required; and people should not be excluded from activities based on their race, country of origin or recent travel if they do not have symptoms of respiratory illness, because — while there is much more to learn about the severity and other features associated with this novel coronavirus — based on current information, the risk from the coronavirus to spread in Los Angeles County residents is deemed to be low at this time.

Prevention and Care

Dr. Lisa Dabby, an emergency physician at the Nethercutt Emergency Center at UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica, agreed that local residents, students, workers, and tourists should continue to engage in their regular activities as long as they are practicing good public health hygiene.

“I don’t think anybody needs to panic,” Dabby said in an interview Friday. “I’ve seen a number of patients pulling into the ER wanting to get screened but I would encourage people if they aren’t feeling a shortage of breath and you’re not vomiting, then there’s no need to come rushing over.”

In fact, according to Dabby, the CDC has asked doctors not to screen unless a patient meets specific criteria, which includes travel to Wuhan City or close contact with somebody infected with the coronavirus.

The emergency physician said she understands why a lot of people are concerned about the novel coronavirus, “but I like to remind people that it’s like any other virus,” Dabby said, mentioning the flu kills hundreds of people a year, but it’s rare for residents to stress when they come down with it.

And like the average strain of influenza or the multitude of other viral illnesses that affect humans on a daily basis, Dabby believes the coronavirus — and most other viruses — can be combated with hygiene.

“I don’t think you need to walk around town with a mask,” Dabby said, but it is recommended you wash your hands before you eat and touch your eyes or mouths. “And we do ask if you are sick with a fever or cough that you don’t expose to the public because that’s usually when these viruses are very infectious.”

It’s tricky to know when to go to the doctor because it could be something as simple as a regular viral infection, Dabby said, “but I would seek care if you are having shortness of breath, if you are feeling weak, if you are vomiting when you eat, then I think you should go see your medical provider.”

Dabby added, “I think the biggest aspect to be mindful of is to be respectful of our community. If you’re sick or coughing then stay at home and stop the spread of the infection. I also think preventative medicine is really important too.”

Residents can find more information about the coronavirus at: [publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/](http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/) or [www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/](https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html)

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