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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

No Cases Of Coronavirus In Vermont, But Health Officials Are Prepared

A student in a face mask stands in line with other students wearing face masks.
Heng Sinith
Associated Press
Students in Cambodia line up to sanitize their hands. A new coronavirus first detected in China has spread to other countries including the United States. So far, there are no cases in Vermont, but state health officials are monitoring the situation.

The Vermont Department of Health says there are no suspected cases of coronavirus in the state, though the department ismonitoring the worldwide outbreak.

The new coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China. Thousands of cases have been identified in that country and, as of Tuesday, the death toll had risen to 106.

The virus is spreading to other countries as well — including the U.S., where there are five confirmed cases of the respiratory illness and more than 100 possible cases, including two in New Hampshire.

There are several types of coronaviruses, including ones that cause only mild respiratory disease like a cold. Others are more serious, like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The virus is spread though contact with an infected person. Health officials are advising people who have visited Wuhan or Hubei Province in China in recent weeks to immediately contact a doctor if they experience any possible symptoms of the virus.

More from NPR:Wuhan Coronavirus 101: What We Do — And Don't — Know About A Newly Identified Disease [Jan. 24]

Since there are currently few confirmed cases in the U.S, the risk of exposure is low, according to state epidemiologist Patsy Kelso — but she said that could change.

“We may start to see lots more cases in the U.S. or we might see relatively few,"  she said. “We just don't know yet because there's so many things we don't know about how this virus behaves. … We don't know how easily it can be transmitted from person to person. We don't know if it can be transmitted before people are symptomatic.”

While there are currently no cases in Vermont, Kelso said she wouldn’t be surprised if the state eventually had one. She said the department is getting the latest updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and communicating with state health care providers.

“We’re taking calls and discussing possible scenarios, so we’re all over it,” Kelso said. “We’re very well-prepared in the event we do end up having a case here.”

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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