More than 8,000 people have died from the flu this season so far in the United States, so the flu remains a greater threat to Americans than the coronavirus.

Health officials continue to state the immediate risk of the coronavirus to the American public is believed to be low at this time. 

And even though the coronavirus has yet to make it to the San Joaquin Valley, there have been cases reported in California. So Sierra View Medical Center is implementing a plan so it’s prepared in the event someone in the community is affected by the coronavirus.

It should be noted this isn’t the first outbreak of a coronavirus in China, which has now spread to 27 other countries. “It makes it a little more difficult to screen,” said Dr. Jeff Hudson, DNP, RN, about how the coronavirus’ spread has affected the screening of the virus.

Hudson the vice president of patient care services and chief nurse executive at Sierra View. He talked on Friday about the hospitals plans to prepare for the coronavirus.

Hudson said the World Health Organization named the latest coronavirus that has spread from China COVID-19 on Tuesday. Other coronaviruses in the past have included SAsRS. “These are all forms of coronavirus,” he said.

Hudson sometime this weekend Sierra View will have a policy in place in which those who enter the front main entrance at the hospital and at the emergency room entrance will be asked if they have been in China or been around someone who has been in China over the past 30 days. 

“We want to be prepared as the numbers continue to grow,” Hudson said. “We’re putting our plans in place.”

Hudson stated if the hospital comes into contact with a suspected case of coronavirus, it will immediately contact the Tulare County Health Department. He said the hospital would then put a plan in place for the patient covering such possible actions as testing, sequestration and quarantine.

He said more than 1,500 people worldwide have died from the coronavirus. “It just continues to get worse,” Hudson said.

Hudson said the symptoms of coronavirus are similar to that of other respiratory symptoms, including coughing and sneezing. So as Hudson said if you do have those symptoms, “chances are you probably don’t have the coronavirus.”

Other symptoms of the coronavirus are shortness of breath and the illness can be spread by physical contact. 

The illness can be spread by sneezing or coughing in an area up to six feet. “It’s highly contagious,” Hudson said.

“I have stopped shaking people’s hands,” said Hudson, who opts for the fist bump. “I don’t do it any more.”

Hudson said the treatment for coronavirus is done on a symptomatic basis. “It’s basically just treating the symptoms,” he said. “There’s no magic treatment.”

Physicians in the community have been asking Sierra View how to deal with coronavirus if it comes up, Hudson said. 

He said if you suspect you have or have been around the coronavirus, DO NOT go to the hospital, your physician’s office or any other clinic. You should call your physician first. If you feel you must go to the hospital, you should call Emergency Medical Services, Hudson said.

If anyone suspects they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus and just shows up at the emergency room, they can obviously infect all those who are there, including hospital staff. Hudson said the hospital is doing everything it can to mitigate the risks to make sure patients and staff aren’t infected by the coronavirus. 

He said the hospital is taking all the precautions to make sure if any staff have to treat someone with coronavirus, they aren’t infected. He said if staff were ever to be exposed to coronavirus, they would have to stay away from the hospital for a minimum of two weeks, which would obviously have a negative impact on the hospital’s services.

Hudson added restrictions have already been put in place restricting the visitation of those 13 and younger. He added people should only come to the hospital when absolutely necessary. 

And the number of visitors coming to visit loved ones in the hospital should also be limited. He said if anyone is in the hospital with a respiratory illness, they will have to wear a mask.

“It’s important to protect against this illness and the community at large,” Hudson said.

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