State health departments throughout the country are preparing for the possibility of the coronavirus spreading across the United States.
The virus has already infected more than 80,000 people worldwide.
“I think it’s on the borderline of calling it a pandemic,” said Melissa McMasters, Marion County Public Health Department’s administrator of the immunization and infectious disease program.
It takes three elements for something to be considered a pandemic. McMasters says those are person-to-person spread, illness that results in death, and the third component is actual worldwide spread.
Currently, six out of the seven continents have confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
“The coronavirus is a new or novel virus that seemed to evolve over in China and quickly spread. I don’t think they recognized it as quickly as they might have, and it unfortunately created a lot of person-to-person spread throughout the country,” said IU Health Medical Director for Infection Control Dr. Douglas Webb.
The Marion County Public Health Department has been preparing for the possibility of the virus spreading for months.
"We are meeting with all our local hospitals and partners and kind of developing plans and means of communication as to might what happen if an individual would get sick with coronavirus," McMasters said.
The CDC confirms 445 people have been tested for the virus in the United States, and 14 people tested positive.
The Indiana State Department of Health and local health departments have been in direct contact with the CDC.
If it continues to spread, we may see multiple places shut down.
"Should schools close? What would be trigger? Can businesses encourage folks to work from home? Can they please encourage people who are sick to stay home during this time?" McMasters said.
McMasters wants people to be prepared.
"Prior to a pandemic, we kind of encourage folks to just stock up on some extra food. Make sure they have enough prescription drugs and over the counter drugs. Make sure they have soap, hand sanitizer, that kind of thing to prevent the spread in their homes," McMasters said.
Also, you need to think about how to properly take care of someone if they fall ill.
"Think about where you might isolate them from your other family members so that your whole family doesn’t get sick," McMasters said.
Area hospitals are preparing for the coronavirus by taking stringent measures to monitor and screen patients who might have recently traveled outside of the country and potentially were exposed to the recently discovered virus.
Infection control teams at Franciscan Health hospitals have implemented procedures with staff and have the necessary equipment to care for any patient with this illness or any other flu strains.
This includes having protective barriers and isolation areas to protect staff and others from airborne exposure to the coronavirus.
Carmel Clay Schools said they're preparing for the use of E-Learning opportunities for students in the event that our schools are closed for an extended period of time.