What Alaskans need to know about the novel coronavirus

Patients in Macomb and Washtenaw counties are being tested for the coronavirus. (MGN Image)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) With a flight of 240 Americans leaving Wuhan on its way to Alaska sometime this week, many are asking how to keep safe during the visit. At a press conference Monday, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink calmed fears and offered advice for staying healthy.

“Coronavirus, based on WHO information as of Jan. 26, showed 2014 cases with 56 confirmed deaths,” she said. “There are 5 US cases and no confirmed deaths. There are no cases currently in Alaska.”

To put the size of the outbreak in context, she compared it to the current flu season.

“In general in the United States, the flu currently is affecting between 15 million and 21 million cases, and so far we have an estimated 8,000 to 20,000 deaths in the United States,” she said. “We have one reported case of death in Alaska from flu, and have a couple thousand cases.”

She said the best way to help prevent the flu, and potentially coronavirus, are basic hygiene practices.

“Good handwashing, and avoiding sick contacts are critically important as we travel,” she said.

Another concern was the possible spread of coronavirus from products shipped over from China. Zink said those aren’t currently a concern.

“What we know about this virus is that it actually dies very quickly on surfaces,” she said. “So in about 2 hours, the virus dies.”

Meaning the virus would die long before completing the trip from China.

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