LA County taking precautions amid spread of new coronavirus

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Southern California health officials are taking precautions to warn and protect local residents from a new strain of coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in China.

Screening for the virus has been implemented at Los Angeles International Airport. Local officials say so far there have not been any cases diagnosed in Los Angeles County.

But they note that with the Lunar New Year holiday, travel from China may be at increased levels now.

In addition, it is already flu season, so health officials remind people to take the precautions they should observe every year at this time.

"If you're sick, if you're coughing, if you're sneezing, you need to stay away from other people," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

At least 500 people have been infected with the new coronavirus in Wuhan, China.

The first travel-related case in the United States was announced Tuesday, in a person from Washington state who had recently traveled to Wuhan.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronavirus can be spread among people through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact such as shaking hands and touching a surface with the virus then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Symptoms can include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and fever.

Children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems may be subject to more severe symptoms, including death.

There have been reports of at least 17 deaths in China associated with the virus.

Despite the screening procedures in place, Ferrer said it is possible other people with coronavirus may already be in the United States, especially if they entered the country before the procedures were put in place.

"I think it is possible, just like the traveler in Washington, that there may be a person who's already here and didn't get screened and still may in fact come down with symptoms," she said. "We're prepared to make sure that person gets the treatment they need so they can successfully recover."
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