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What is coronavirus, and should Wisconsinites be concerned?

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MADISON (WKOW) -- In the height of cold and flu season, hospitals and clinics are already on high alert -- but a new, deadly virus is making its way around the world.

"Right now, anybody who traveled to Wuhan, China and has any respiratory symptoms are advised to contact a physician," said Brenda Klahn, an infection preventionist with SSM Health.

Klahn says "coronavirus" is not just one virus, but a type of virus which includes strains with cold-like symptoms that people catch all the time.

"Very rarely would it be deadly," she said.

This specific coronavirus is a brand new strain (right now called "2019 Novel Coronavirus") that's much more aggressive.

That's why anyone with respiratory symptoms will be asked new questions right away.

"Where have you traveled? Have you traveled to Asia? Have you been to China? Have you been to Wuhan, China?" Klahn said.

Officials at both UnityPoint Health - Meriter and UW Health say similar questions and precautions will be taken at those facilities, too.

If someone with symptoms has traveled from China, they'll be isolated, and samples will go to the State Laboratory of Hygiene to confirm if it is the new strain of coronavirus.

If it is, it's a virus -- so antibiotics won't work.

"So you treat the symptoms," Klahn said. "If they're dehydrated, then they'll get IV fluids. If they have a fever, they'll get a medication for the fever. If they have a cough, something for the cough."

If someone hasn't traveled to China, it's probably not the coronavirus.

Klahn says officials right now are focused only on those with both symptoms and travel history.

"If I had a family member that right now developed a respiratory virus, I'm going to say I'm not concerned for them because I know that we haven't traveled to China and we haven't been near anybody else who's traveled to China," she said.

Health officials suspect the incubation period is somewhere around 14 days, so they'll be on alert for a while.

Right now, six students who recently arrived at UW-Platteville from Wuhan, China are currently being monitored. So far, they haven't shown any symptoms.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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