Latest coronavirus cases making local health experts prepare for the worst

The CDC is warning Americans it's only a matter of time before the virus outbreak hits the U.S.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning Americans that it’s only a matter of time before the coronavirus outbreak hits the U.S.

There are more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide.

Most of the cases are in China.

More than 2,700 people have died.

While the virus has yet to sweep across the U.S., health officials say it’s likely to happen.

“I feel like the flu is maybe overshadowing the worry of coronavirus,” Mayo Clinic Health System nurse administrator Lisa Bungum said.

Local hospitals are taking extra steps if an outbreak hits the La Crosse area.

“We’ve been actually having weekly updates for our staff,” Gundersen Health System infection control practitioner Brian Simmons said.

Simmons says if a patient has a severe case of coronavirus, that person would stay in the hospital.

“If they’re gonna be ill enough and need to stay in our facility, we’ll keep managing those precautions throughout the stay,” Simmons said.

Hospital staff is also preparing for potential patients not only in La Crosse, but throughout the region.

“Our entry points within the clinic and the hospital system would be sure to issue a mask, escort that patient to an isolated room, and then be prepared to make an assessment with that patient to understand if there was recent travel,” Bungum said.

“Even if a family medicine clinic in one of the regional areas could potentially see a patient, we’d want to make sure we have supplies for them to care for a patient,” Simmons said.

Gundersen and Mayo Clinic are keeping in touch.

“We’re also working with local public health and other local entities in our healthcare coalition,” Simmons said.

“The collaboration piece about this virus is going to be key,” Bungum said.

While health officials hope the coronavirus stays away from here, they will keep preparing for the worst.

“We’ll be hopefully okay in the state of Wisconsin,” Bungum said.

Sixty cases of the coronavirus are confirmed in the U.S.

Wisconsin has one confirmed case in Dane County.

Health officials advise people to be aware if they develop any symptoms of the coronavirus.

The CDC says symptoms can range from a cough, fever and shortness of breath.

Those symptoms can start appearing up to 14 days after exposure.