MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Coronavirus, a pneumonia-like illness, has killed at least 25 people, infected at least 830, and it is still spreading.
In an unprecedented move, 23 million people in six Chinese cities are or will soon be on lock down. The deadly virus that is shutting down entire cities and crippling travel on the lunar new year holiday weekend has made its way to the U.S. with at least one confirmed case of Coronavirus in Seattle, Washington.
“Today in the modern world of transportation where millions of people are on airplanes flying on any one moment flying around the world its not at all a surprise it would show up in potentially many different countries,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the center for infectious disease research and policy at the University of Minnesota, said.
Osterholm says, if Coronavirus is anything like its relatives SARS and MERS, “we can expect to see ongoing transmission by humans to humans and that’s what really concerns us.”
So how likely is it that we will see Coronavirus here in Minnesota?
“If someone with this virus lands in your home town or your area sits in an emergency room waiting for three to four hours you can see a number of cases,” Osterholm said. “Again, the chance of that happening is low, but if its does happen it surely will be high consequence.”
Though its unlikely if the Coronavirus did make its way to Minneapolis, Osterholm says its not the airports we should be concerned about.
“Screening individuals for their temperature at airports is really not an effective way to detect if someone has this virus or not. I have likened it to fixing three of the five screen doors on your submarine,” said Osterholm. “It makes it seem as if we’re doing something but frankly the benefit of all this airport screening is really questionable.”
Osterhom says it can take up to two weeks for an infected person to show symptoms. And until experts pinpoint the animal source causing this outbreak, the spread could continue.
“Are we going to be able to identify the animal source get it out of the market, stop it so all we have to do is stop future human transmission? Or is this now with us for the future? For which at that point we’re going to be dealing with this for a long time to come,” Osterholm said.