BALTIMORE — In Howard County, the Chinese New Year gala slated for this weekend has been canceled as a precaution, but in the absence of the coronavirus here, Maryland Public Health Deputy Secretary Fran Phillips says the state is simply monitoring the virus' spread elsewhere for now.
“So far in Maryland, we have had no cases either confirmed cases or no individuals who have met the criteria to be tested,” said Phillips. "It's business as usual right now in terms of businesses and schools in Maryland. CDC continues to say that it's relatively low risk. This is the time of year though that we've got lots of viruses circulating. We've got flu. We've got lots of common colds circulating and so, again, the same precautions that we take to protect ourselves from those viruses will work with this new coronavirus. That's specifically frequent hand washing... very, very important. Stay away from people that are sick. Encourage people to cough and sneeze into their sleeve, and if folks are sick, please don't come to work."
In the next week or so, Phillips says the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be ready to start testing any potential victims, itself, in Baltimore, which would help save time in containing any spread of the virus, but there is no vaccine, and at least for now, doctors can only treat a patient's symptoms.
In the past, the state has dealt with potential outbreaks of SARS, MERS and even Ebola, which have provided valuable lessons should the coronavirus make its way here.
"We understand more about how these viruses work, how they're transmitted, how to test for them and how to treat them,” said Phillips. “So this is a very early stage of this particular outbreak---a brand new virus so it's too soon to say whether this will be just a blip or if this can be more significant."
People who have traveled to the areas of high concentration in China within the last two weeks are most at risk, and Maryland does have a number of students and faculty members who may fall into that category during the recent vacation season who may yet report symptoms if they were exposed to the virus.