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Coronavirus threat deemed ‘low risk’ in the commonwealth

Berkshire Medical Center. (File photo)

PITTSFIELD — A new respiratory virus, believed to have potentially emerged from an animal source in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China, has claimed the lives of dozens and resulted in hundreds of confirmed human infections.
According to the state Department of Health, cases have now been seen in travelers from Wuhan to Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed five cases in the U.S., including Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington.
Though the risk of exposure the new coronavirus from China has been deemed low in the commonwealth by health officials, the state Department of Health continues to work closely with the CDC to monitor the outbreak, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Health (DPH). As of Wednesday morning, there have been 68 confirmed negative cases and still 92 pending further investigation. There are also 36 states with patients under investigation, according to the CDC. There have been no confirmed cases in Massachusetts
“ … The risk to Massachusetts residents from this novel coronavirus is currently low, however, this is the season for respiratory viruses including the flu and many of the same recommended precautions apply to coronaviruses,” said a DPH spokesperson in a statement.
Locally, health institutions like Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield are heeding the cautions and taking the recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization, but are further tailoring the process to both hospital staff and patients.
In 2015, Berkshire Medical Center established a policy covering pandemics, epidemics and outbreaks that cover the initial steps that would be taken for a new emerging disease, said Michael Perreault, director of infection control at Berkshire Medical Center.

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