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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Novel coronavirus under extensive research by local health officials, medical community ready for possible cases

Although there are no cases of the coronavirus in Shelby County, health officials say they are prepared for cases to happen in the area.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Although there are no cases of the coronavirus in Shelby County, health officials say they are prepared for cases to happen in the area.

Doctors say there’s no current active vaccine program at UT Health Science Center, but they are researching the coronavirus in a secured lab in Memphis. UT Health Sciences is one of 14 regional biocontainment labs (RBL) which research infectious diseases such SARS.

“As of last Thursday, we actually have the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China here in the RBL and are beginning research on that,” shared Dr. Jon McCullers.

“It’s only patients that have traveled and been exposed that really we’re concerned about,” said Dr. Jon McCullers, the Pediatrician-in-Chief at UTHS during Wednesday’s press conference.

McCullers says as the coronavirus spreads, it could be more dangerous than the flu. Regional One and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital says they have a plan in place for any patients who might contract the strand known as COVID-19.

“We haven’t really come close to have anyone who would meet the criteria for coronavirus but we do have an area of the hospital which is isolated and it is just for those patients,” said Martin Croce, the chief medical officer at Regional One.

“We implemented some new measures this morning to increase some of our negative pressure rooms in our hospital,” said Nicholas Hysmith of Lebonheur Children’s Hospital.

Meanwhile, authorities urge the public to regularly wash hands and stay home if you’re sick.

“We ask them not to come to a healthcare facility right away because they’re going to expose other people,” commented McCullers. “What we say is stay home, call the provider and we can trigger this health response.”

UT Health authorities also say surgical masks will not entirely stop those infected from transmitting the coronavirus but will decrease the chances of others being infected.