ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Researchers at UNM Health Sciences Center are keeping a close eye on the deadly new Coronavirus and warning New Mexicans what to watch out for.
While no cases of the “coronavirus” have been, reported, identified or even suspected in New Mexico yet, researchers and doctors are trying to make sure they’re ready by paying attention to where new cases are springing up.
On Thursday, health officials in Brazos County, Texas confirmed they’re investigating what could be a possible case of coronavirus in the U.S. Authorities say a Texas A&M student showed symptoms of an upper respiratory illness after traveling from Wuhan, China.
“This sort of virus tends to be on my radar,” said Dr. Steven Bradfute, an assistant professor at UNM Health Sciences Center’s Department of Internal Medicine.
A researcher for UNMHSC and with the Center for Global Health, Bradfute has worked on vaccines for both the Zika and Ebola viruses. He says the latest Coronavirus from Wuhan, China is of concern.
“I like to say that it’s good to be cautious, but it’s not good to panic,” said Bradfute.
The Wuhan Coronavirus is thought to have killed at least 18 people and sickened more than 600 people so far. Most of those affected have been in China and surrounding Asian countries.
“The area of concern is that its most closely related to SARS, which caused a pretty big outbreak several years ago,” Bradfute said.
According to the CDC, SARS eventually killed nearly 800 people across the globe in 2003.
In the United States, doctors have confirmed one case of the Wuhan Coronavirus in Washington state while on Friday, a Chicago woman became the second U.S. patient to return from China with a pneumonia-like virus. Health officials in Brazos County, Texas confirmed Thursday they’re investigating a suspected case in a Texas A&M student.
“The patient had traveled to the area of concern, developed mild symptoms after returning,” said Dr. Eric Wilke of the Brazos County Health District during a Thursday news conference.
UNMH’s Dr. Bradfute says it’s too early to tell how big a deal the new coronavirus is.
“Right now, it doesn’t seem to be as dangerous as SARS, although that could change,” Bradfute said.
If a patient were to show signs of the illness in New Mexico, they’d likely go to UNMH and be isolated in one of the hospital’s quarantine areas.
“This is something that the hospital is equipped to deal with,” Bradfute said.
In the meantime, like other hospitals in the U.S., UNMH is following the guidelines CDC is suggesting for anyone showing signs of respiratory illness.
“Travel history and then have you been around individuals that may have been exposed to this virus, are important questions to consider,” Bradfute said.
In the latest suspected coronavirus case in College Station, health officials think there is a “low risk” of infection to other students at Texas A&M who may have come in contact with the affected student.