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Summit County officials keep a watchful eye on coronavirus

The Summit County public health center.
Park Record file photo
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As tens of thousands of visitors descend on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival and the upcoming FIS freestyle World Cup ski event, Summit County Health Department officials are keeping a watchful eye on the progression of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has spread from China.

While the first U.S. case was reported Jan. 21, Carolyn Rose, the county’s nursing director, said the virus doesn’t appear to be overly contagious between humans, though that could change quickly as more information comes out.

“It’s a low risk right now, but people need to be aware,” Rose said. “I think there’s a higher risk of getting the flu than this (but) that could change in a day.”

Rose doesn’t recommend steering clear of the crowds, but she advised regular flu season precautions like frequent hand-washing, getting a flu shot and staying away from people who appear sick.

People are at less risk when, say, walking up Main Street, because it’s out in the air, but the chances of catching something rise when in an enclosed space like a movie theater.

“If you’re around someone who’s coughing, I wouldn’t sit near them,” Rose said.

She also said that people should stay home if they’re under the weather, something she called frustratingly uncommon for people in the United States.

Rose said she recently sat in on a conference call with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, that she’s been in contact with the infection prevention nurse at the Park City Hospital and that she’s emailed out information to area physicians. The virus presents similarly to the common cold, but Rose said she’s asked doctors to watch out for signs like an unusual number of sore throats.

The disease has proven fatal in multiple cases, according to the CDC, but others have had milder symptoms and been discharged. Evidence indicates it can spread between humans, but its efficacy in doing so is still unclear.

Rose said it appears unlikely that it will turn into an epidemic.

“I think that it’s very low — I think the chances are very low at this point right today,” she said. “You never you know what’s going to change. It could spread like wildfire, it could just die out.”


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