SoCal hospitals preparing for possible coronavirus cases

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- So far, there are two confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Southern California. One in Los Angeles County and the other in Orange County.

Doctors at local hospitals say they're preparing to screen for the virus and handle cases if necessary.

"Our staff is well equipped to handle them as they come in through the triage area," said Kristi Ann Parral, head of the emergency care department at Saint Joseph Hospital in Orange. "They're screening them, asking them questions and then as needed we will put them in isolation."

At this hospital, they have designated an isolation room and will also set up isolation areas for any infected patient's relatives and close contacts.

"We will have an outside tent if needed," Parral said. "And the reason for that is to cohort patients and family members if they have any like symptoms."

Since the onset of novel coronavirus and flu symptoms are very similar, the head of emergency care at St. Joseph Hospital said the staff has to rely on travel history to distinguish the difference.

"We need to know that information immediately," said Dr. Brian Lee. "We put them in strict respiratory isolation and then run our testing to see if they have coronavirus or not."

Health officials in China shared updated information about the virus' incubation period. Researchers say it can be contagious for two weeks before any signs show.

Lee advises travelers from Wuhan city or anywhere in China to carefully monitor their health.

"Anyone traveling from Wuhan province who does not have symptoms," Lee said, "I think it would be prudent for them to self-isolate for two weeks."

So far all the U.S. cases have been travel-related. The CDC also said the risk for person-to-person transmission is low. However, health providers say if you're going to be exposed to crowds use common sense.

Parral said, "Come home, wash your hands and don't touch your face when you're out. Don't rub your eyes - like you would prepare yourself for a common cold."
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