State health officials explain protocol for public health concerns like the Wuhan coronavirus

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - It’s a disease continuing to spread from one country to the next, the Wuhan coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in China and killed dozens more.

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Now, with two confirmed cases in the United States, health officials are doing what they can to minimize any outbreaks, including those right here in the Bluegrass.

It’s a protocol already in place that’s just waiting for a public health concern to activate it.

“Whenever we have something like this like we just had with vaping and lung injury, we send out an alert to clinicians to tell them what to look for,” the acting state Epidemiologist Doug Thoroughman said.

With this new coronavirus, doctors are looking for specific risk factors, including an upper respiratory infection with a fever and travel to Wuhan, China or direct contact with someone who has a confirmed case.

The alert was sent statewide Jan. 22, along with a notice of a scheduled webinar for doctors and health departments across the commonwealth to learn more about the virus and ask questions.

“They’re still trying to learn things like how does it transmit, how quickly does it transmit,” Thoroughman said. “Obviously it’s worse than the common cold because several people have died, but how bad is it.”

So far, the confirmed cases are in Washington and Illinois. But, if the virus makes its way to Kentucky, that activates a new round of procedure.

“We can then keep them in isolation so no one else gets exposed,” Thoroughman said. “But, if there are other people that were exposed to them, then we will check in with those people and monitor them for symptoms, and hopefully we won’t see any more spread.”

The risk of exposure is considered low.

“I don’t expect that we have lots of people in Kentucky who are coming from Wuhan China compared to other states,” Thoroughman said.

However, officials already have a plan in place for the unexpected.