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Utah student tested for novel coronavirus after returning from China sick

Posted at 9:52 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 23:52:48-05

MURRAY, Utah — A Utah student has been tested for novel coronavirus after her school said she returned from China with flu-like symptoms.

Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant said Wednesday they took every precaution after the student arrived Tuesday from Beijing with a mild fever.

The student was tested at IMC and the Utah Department of Health was notified. The student is currently not on the Wasatch Academy campus, the school said.

She isn’t the only one the Utah Department of Health is evaluating for the novel coronavirus.

In a press conference Wednesday, State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said they can’t release specific numbers, but the cases they’re evaluating have been spread throughout the state.

“We definitely have investigated a lot of suspected persons who might have novel coronavirus,” she said. “But to date, none have tested positive.”

According to the CDC, Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare websites, coronaviruses are a family of viruses—think the common cold or SARS.

Intermountain Healthcare said most people get sick at some point in their life from coronavirus.

It’s the new novel strain that makes things different.

“This is a new virus that hasn’t seen before,” Dr. Dunn said. “We don’t have a vaccine currently, and we don’t have treatment.”

She said the novel coronavirus is spread through airborne droplets, and because there is no treatment or screening for it, she said it has become a concern for public health.

The novel coronavirus, which originated in China, has killed dozens and sickened more than 1,000 people in China.

Dr. Dunn said other confirmed cases around the world all have been linked to mainland China.

It’s why she said the CDC is working with the FAA to ensure screening at airports in the US with direct flights from China.

So far, the CDC has confirmed five cases of novel coronavirus in the US.

While the novel coronavirus has not reached Utah, and Dr. Dunn said the threat to Utahns remains low, the Utah Department of Health has activated its incident command system to monitor the outbreak.

Dr. Dunn said novel coronavirus symptoms include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough and shortness of breath. She indicated that the people most at risk for getting sick are those who recently traveled to China and are also experiencing symptoms.

She advised anyone who is worried about their symptoms to call their doctor or an emergency room and advise them of the symptoms and recent travel to China.

Doctors test for novel coronavirus, Dr. Dunn said, through drawing respiratory specimens through swabbing the throat or nose, as well as through blood draws.

She said all tests in Utah are sent to the CDC. She said the CDC takes 48 hours to send results back.

Dr. Dunn had recommendations for how to keep sicknesses like the novel coronavirus at bay.

“Wash your hands thoroughly. If you’re going to sneeze or cough, do it into your elbow or tissue. Don’t do it into your hands,” she said. “Those basic precautionary measures will keep us safe from spreading the disease.”