Local doctors say COVID-19 coronavirus isn’t the virus you should be worried about


They say there's another virus that's already killed 14,000 people this season

(WKBN) – Doctors are hoping to spread calm over fear when it comes to COVID-19, the type of coronavirus wreaking havoc in Asia.

More than 2,700 people around the world have died from the virus. Right now, there are 14 cases confirmed in the U.S.

MORE: Why the name ‘coronavirus’ can be misleading

“It’s fear of the unknown,” said Dr. John Venglarcik, an infectious disease specialist. “How do we break that? By doing what we’re doing right here. This is how it stops — by telling people that I’m not worried about it.”

Local health leaders say while people shouldn’t worry, they should be prepared.

As warnings of a further spread of the virus drove down the stock market for a second straight day, Venglarcik said that spread is not happening yet.

“There’s still only 14 cases in the United States so we’re really not seeing a dramatic spread.”

There have been no cases to date in either Ohio or Pennsylvania and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has not imposed any restrictions on travel.

“I get this question a lot about, ‘Where can I travel? Where should I go? Where should I not go?’ And, really, the best advice is to follow the CDC travel recommendations,” said Dr. James Kravec, with the Mahoning County Board of Health.

That includes giving extra thought before heading to countries where there are outbreaks — China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran.

One thing that’s not being recommended is arming yourself with simple breathing masks. Venglarcik said they don’t fully protect your mouth and nose, and do nothing to cover your eyes.

“If somebody coughs and it gets in your eyes, it’s got where it wants to be.”

Both doctors said the best prevention, at this point, is the same basic precautions we take during cold and flu season — wash your hands, cover your coughs or sneezes and stay home when you’re sick.

“If there was a vaccine for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, I think there’d be people lined up down the block,” Kravec said. “But there is a vaccine for the flu and more than half of Americans don’t get it.”

“If we want to sit down and talk about the risk to anyone who’s listening to us right now, the risk that you face in the next seven days is influenza,” Venglarcik said.

The flu has already killed 14,000 people in the U.S. this season.

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