The emergence of a potentially deadly respiratory virus has prompted increased concern in the global health community. Closer to home, both Mercy Health -- Lourdes Hospital and Baptist Health Paducah are taking precautions and addressing potential concerns centered on the novel coronavirus.

Known by health experts as the COVID-19, the coronavirus appears to have originated in Wuhan, China, late last year and has spread across the world's most populous nation and around the globe to 28 countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports more than a dozen confirmed cases in six states, including Illinois. The death toll in China has surpassed 1,000, though no deaths had been reported in the U.S. at press time.

"Our clinical leaders at Mercy Health have implemented protocols that are consistent with CDC guidelines, and we're closely monitoring the situation across our ministry," said Kevin Compton, a Mercy Health spokesperson.

Baptist Health say that they are watching the concerning situation develop and taking cautionary measures.

"Patients are being appropriately screened and, if necessary, will be treated here at Baptist Health," said Chief Medical Officer Bradley Housman, MD. "All necessary precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of our current and future patients. In the meantime, we recommend for people to limit their contact with people who are ill and frequently wash their hands with soap and water. If a person is feeling sick with fever, coughing or breathing troubles, they should contact their local primary care provider."

Joe Duncan, a spokesperson for Caldwell Medical Center in Princeton, noted that when international stories like the coronavirus become a focus of the news, many people forget the day-to-day health risks that everyone faces.

"You are still more likely to experience serious complications from the flu, pneumonia or sepsis in our area today than you are the coronavirus," Duncan said. "We encourage everyone to take your health seriously and get your flu shot, check your blood pressure, get your annual exams."

So far in Kentucky, the flu has killed 41 people this season.

Duncan advises anyone who has recently returned from China or had contact with someone who has to monitor his or her health. Those experiencing fever, cough or difficulty breathing should:

• Seek medical care right away. Call ahead to inform the doctor or emergency room about your recent travel and symptoms before arriving.

• Avoid contact with others.

• Do not travel.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available.

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