APTOPIX China Outbreak

Health Officials in hazmat suits check body temperatures of passengers arriving from the city of Wuhan on Jan. 22 at the airport in Beijing, China. Wuhan has been the epicenter of the coronavirus. Americans evacuated by jet from China outbreak zone / 9A

While there’s been no suspected cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in Denton County, Matt Richardson, director of the county public health, said he and other officials are continuing to monitor the situation.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, in mid-December and has been spreading quickly in recent days. In a report to the Denton County Commissioner’s Court on Tuesday, Richardson said cases are rapidly growing. Monday when he prepared his presentation, there were 2,798 cases across the world. By Tuesday morning, there were 4,474.

“We’ve coordinated multiple communications with health care providers, lots of community members have questions about coronavirus, lots of doctors and hospitals have questions,” Richardson said. “Again fire, police, EMS and response agencies have questions. We’re trying to keep them up to date and answer questions in real time. We’ve done quite a bit of that in recent weeks, and it’s increasing.”

The virus presents like a common cold, with fever, cough and shortness of breath the most common symptoms. Those who are at risk were in Wuhan, or have been in close proximity to someone who has had the virus, Richardson said.

In the United States, numbers remain much lower than China, and the four suspected cases in Texas were all confirmed as negative.

Two of the suspected cases were university students who could have been exposed. Officials at Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas said they are monitoring the situation and in contact with public health officials.

“UNT public health and emergency preparedness staff regularly keep in contact with government public health officials to stay updated on the latest public health information, such as the coronavirus activity,” said Leigh Anne Gullett, a spokesperson for UNT. “Our staff, including doctors from our health center, work with public health partners to provide information and assist our university community should the need arise.”

That doesn’t mean no one is impacted in Denton, though. Kate McWilliams, a lifelong Denton resident, is watching from afar because her son Andrew lives in Kunming, China. While he is about 1,000 miles away from Wuhan, he and has girlfriend have been confined to their apartment for days and have seen a shortage of food at the grocery store.

“Every day something new has developed, and he told me yesterday now people can’t get in or out of the city,” McWilliams said Tuesday. “I’m not as worried about the virus as much as I am about them not getting food or water or being able to work.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

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