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Kingman prepares for possible coronavirus

States with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus are red, while those with suspected cases are blue. (Illustration by Pharexia, cc-by-sa-4.0, https://bit.ly/2O49eLm)

States with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus are red, while those with suspected cases are blue. (Illustration by Pharexia, cc-by-sa-4.0, https://bit.ly/2O49eLm)

KINGMAN – If the deadly 2019-nCoV coronavirus sweeping through China arrives in northwest Arizona, local health officials will be ready.

All local hospitals and the Mohave County Department of Public Health met on Tuesday, Jan. 28 with the Arizona Department of Homeland Security to discuss the matter.

The first case of the virus in Arizona was confirmed on Sunday, Jan. 26. A community member of Arizona State University who became infected marks the fifth case of the never-before-seen virus confirmed in the United States. It continues to surge through the Chinese city of Wuhan, with over 4,500 confirmed cases and 100 deaths through Tuesday.

“At this point, we all coordinated on what our role (will be) if there’s a suspected case,” Mohave County Public Health Director Denise Burley said immediately after the meeting. “This is an evolving situation, so for now it’s mostly about staying informed on new developments and having weekly phone calls.”

Asked what would happen if there was a suspected case, Burley said the hospital would screen the patient and check their travel history. If necessary, the Mohave County Public Department would be informed. After another screening, the Arizona Department of Health Services would get involved.

“If you suspect you have the symptoms, it is good to call before coming to the emergency room,” recommended Teri Williams, communications and marketing director at Kingman Regional Medical Center. “That will limit the risk of exposure.”

“At the same time, flu is still a bigger issue,” Burley added. “The good thing is the everyday preventive measures we recommend [washing hands and avoiding contact with people who are sick] will keep you safe from both.”

The virus may already be impacting tourism in Kingman, where busloads of Chinese visitors often stop. China is now prohibiting travel out of the Wuhan area.

“We have noticed fewer visitors from China this year so far, which I would not have expected,” said Joshua Noble, Kingman tourism services manager. “It could be the virus; it could be fluctuations of the Chinese economy.”

Noble said in recent years Kingman has become a popular destination among Chinese tourists, thanks to the promotion of the Route 66 experience in China. But the beginning of the year is usually slow, but not this slow.

“Our guestbook so far is showing about half as many entries from China,” Noble said, comparing this year with the previous season. “Summer, which has been historically heavy for Chinese travelers, will be a better gauge for that market. For other markets, I don’t feel we’ve seen an impact, at least yet. We’re not getting inquiries about it at the Visitor Center.”

ASU banned travel to China. The community member diagnosed with coronavirus recently returned from Wuhan.

At this time, there are no known cases of the virus in Mohave County. The government agencies are developing additional educational materials to share with the public.

Other domestic cases have been reported in the states of California, Washington and Illinois.

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