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Washtenaw County Health Officials Paying Close Attention To Virus Outbreak In China


There's growing concern about a contagious virus that has claimed at least 17 lives and sickened hundreds of others mostly in China.

WEMU's Lisa Barry talks to Washtenaw County Health Department communications manager Susan Cerniglia, who says they are closely watching what happens now that 20 million people have been quarantined in China, where most of the cases have occurred so far.

It's called the "Coronavirus," and Washtenaw County Health Department communications manager Susan Cerniglia says it's a relatively common family of viruses that can mutate into a new human virus that a lot of people don't have an immunity to.  She says sometimes those illnesses can become serious adding they don't know a lot about it, but adds, "Certainly, we are watching very closely with this particular one right now."

She says the symptoms are similar to the flu and advises anyone who traveled to China within the past 14 days and has the symptoms to seek medical advice.

Local congresswoman Debbie Dingell is asking for answers as to why flights are allowed to travel to Detroit Metro airport from the area where most of the cases have occurred..

Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.  This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.

Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world.  Seven different coronaviruses, that scientists know of, can infect people and make them sick.  Some human coronaviruses were identified many years ago, and some have been identified recently.  Human coronaviruses commonly cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide.  Two newer human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, have been known to frequently cause severe illness.

Common human coronaviruses, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold.  Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives.  These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time.

Symptoms may include:

  • runny nose
  • headache
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • a general feeling of being unwell

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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