The coronavirus has killed hundreds of people in China and spread to multiple countries, including the United States. But what is the coronavirus, and how worried about it should you be?

Meagan Garibay, an infection preventionist at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, said most people in Southwest Oklahoma should not be very worried about the virus – as it stands right now.

“If you have not been to China and you’re not around anybody that’s been to China since those affected provenances in China, your risk for contracting it at this point in the United States is extremely, extremely low,” Garibay said.

She said the coronavirus is not rare.

“There are coronaviruses that circulate all year long,” Garibay said. “If you catch a coronavirus, most likely you’re going to have what we call the common cold. There are some coronaviruses out there that can cause more serve disease, which is the case with the one in China right now.”

Garibay said the most common symptoms of the one coming out of China are fever, cough and shortness of breath. She said since everybody is on high alert, the cases are being caught pretty quickly, and people who are coming back to the United States are being quarantined.

She said they think the incubation period is two to 14 days, and they think it’s being spread respiratory droplets, so people coughing and sneezing.

“We really want to tell people that the thing that they should be most concerned about right now is the flu virus,” Garibay said. “The flu has hospitalized over 140,000 people in the United States alone this season, and it’s killed almost 8,500 people this season. So, at this point, your risk of catching the flu and suffering serious consequences from the flu is much, much higher than the risk of the coronavirus at this time.”

Garibay said the most effective way to prevent the spread of any respiratory virus is to wash your hands frequently, avoid crowded places, and cover your cough or sneezes with a tissue or your elbow. She also wants to remind everyone that it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine.

CCMH is hosting a Heart Healthy Luncheon. It’s going to be Wednesday, February 19th at 11:30 at the Oakwood Conference Center. The cost of lunch is $10. Before the luncheon, they’re offering risk assessment screenings and a fasting blood draw from 7 a.m. – 11 a.m. Appointments are required for the screenings and to RSVP for lunch call 585-5406.