ST. CLOUD -- How concerned should you be about the coronavirus outbreak? According to public health officials, right now this season’s influenza virus is a higher concern locally.

At a pop-up seminar at St. Cloud State University on Thursday afternoon, a panel of professors and members of the Stearns County Public Health Department discussed the facts about coronavirus.

The 2019-nCoV outbreak started in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and world health officials believe it originated at the Huanan Seafood Market, which is about the size of nine football fields, before being transmitted human-to-human.

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface and typically cause respiratory illnesses. Previous outbreaks of coronaviruses include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).

Over 28,000 cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide including 12 in the United States. Six of those cases were in California, two in Illinois, one in Washington, one in Arizona, one in Massachusetts, and one in Wisconsin.

Around 560 deaths have been reported, but only two were outside of China - Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Current symptoms being reported include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Health officials say people who have been exposed to the virus can see symptoms develop in as few as two days or as many as 14.

Much is still unknown about who is the most susceptible to the virus, but the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and other organizations are working on a vaccine that they hope to have ready to go in the next three to nine months.

Comparatively, Stearns County Public Health Nurse Jill Ruder says so far 19 million people in the U.S. have had some strain of the flu this winter, and 180,000 of those people have been hospitalized.

Despite the attention given to the flu locally, county officials say they are ready to take on the coronavirus if it should find its way to Minnesota.

The health department recommends general preventative action including washing your hands often, covering your cough, and staying home if you are sick.

If you would like to learn more about the coronavirus outbreak and efforts to contain it, you can click on the links below:

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