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Since its emergence in Wuhan, China in December of 2019, the hysteria and fear surrounding the coronavirus outbreak have risen almost as quickly as the death toll. So the question on everyone’s minds; is the U.S. prepared for a coronavirus outbreak but more importantly, is Houston prepared?
While the bulk of the 75,000 confirmed cases of infection are confined to China, there are still an alarming 1,000 plus cases confirmed internationally with 15 being reported in the United States. The alarm felt worldwide is undeterred by the fact that only 6 of the reported 2,000 deaths have occurred outside of China.
As the virus continues to spread internationally, the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global health emergency, leaving many with questions about the United States’ preparedness in preventing further spread throughout the general population.
As the number of reported cases rises daily, it seems inevitable that the virus will spread to Texas. And with Houston being a major city for international travel, the likelihood of the virus affecting our city is high. Still, many experts say that Houston is uniquely positioned to handle an outbreak.
Texas is home to Galveston’s Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases. This center is one of the very few high-level containment laboratories and centers for disease control in the country. While vaccine experiments for novel coronavirus have yet to begin, scientists will build upon what they learned during outbreaks with Ebola, SARS, and MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome).
As a medical hub, it is probable that Houston is better equipped to keep the virus isolated and work towards treating the virus in the event of a local outbreak. Make sure you are prepared for a coronavirus outbreak.
In an attempt to protect public health, the United States’ government introduced restrictions for those traveling to and from mainland China. Since the outbreak, hundreds of flights from Chinese airports have been canceled; many others have been rerouted to American airports with CDC quarantine facilities. Several airlines—including American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines—have banned all flights to and from China until further notice. The United States’ government has taken further precautionary measures by also making many international airports, including George W. Bush International in Houston, a designated location for mandatory virus screening. So the question; is Houston prepared for a coronavirus outbreak?
After SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) spread to 24 countries in the early 2000s, the United States initiated the Strategic National Stockpile in the event of future pandemics. The goal of this stockpile is to be able to deliver supplies to major cities like Houston quickly in the event of a public health emergency escalating so rapidly that local supplies run out.
Many report the warning signs of the Novel Coronavirus infections as being similar to that of the flu or other respiratory illnesses. With symptoms like runny nose, coughing or sneezing, fever, and shortness of breath, people may disregard red flags for the common cold. To protect yourself, healthcare experts advise that people be sure to take every precaution.
Despite popular belief, health officials and the CDC do not currently recommend wearing face masks. While they have the potential to be a preventative measure, not all masks are created equal. The standard masks that are made available to the general public tend to be cheaply made. Even with high-quality masks, most are improperly used; very few wear the mask tight enough to prevent gaps and properly dispose of them after a single-use. And with people that do use them properly, there is still the chance of infection if they do not properly wash their hands after handling the mask.
According to health officials, the most effective way to stay healthy is to wash your hands often with soap and water. You should also avoid close contact with potentially sick or infected persons. Because the virus is airborne, be sure to take extra care in avoiding anyone exhibiting symptoms of coughing or sneezing.
If you feel as though you or a loved one are experiencing similar symptoms associated with the coronavirus, do not hesitate to visit the nearest Village Emergency Center near you. At Village Emergency Centers, we have a full staff of board-certified physicians ready at a moment’s notice. No matter the time of day, have confidence you’ll receive expert care without the wait.