Memphis medical community says it’s prepared if coronavirus hits the Mid-South

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are still no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Shelby County, but the Memphis medical community said they’re prepared for the coronavirus if any cases hit the Mid-South.

UT Health Science Center doctors along with officials from the health department and area hospitals outlined their plans for fighting this virus.

Doctors for Regional One said they already have an active screening program which means they’re checking patients who come the hospital and their outpatient departments.

Staff at both LeBonheur Children’s Hospital and Regional One said they review CDC guidelines and update their plans if necessary.

The health department said there were a few people placed on self-monitoring this month which means they traveled to an area with confirmed cases of coronavirus, but they were not showing symptoms for it.

Doctors said if you think you have coronavirus, don’t go to the hospital right away.

“Because they’re going to expose other people, what we say is stay home, call your health care provider, the provider calls the health dept and we can trigger this public health response,” said Dr. Jon McCullers, Senior Executive Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs in the UTHSC College of Medicine.

UTHSC officials said their plan of attack also includes research.

Memphis is home to one of 14 Regional Biocontainment Labs in the country and as of last Thursday, this lab started researching the coronavirus.

Doctors said the lab is looking for new drugs and even cures.

“It screens compounds and drugs against certain viruses, we obviously can’t do that in a normal laboratory, like the we would do in the college of pharmacy because you’re dealing with a pathogen that has to be handled under a high biocontainment,” McCullers said.

UTHSC said a big part of their plan is keeping the community informed.

Friday, the center is launching a website this with information about the disease and it has an ask the experts section where you can submit questions and doctors will answer them. The website will be: https://www.uthsc.edu/coronavirus

UTHSC is also planning a symposium for health care providers about the coronavirus, so they’re prepared too.

Officials at Saint Francis Hospital said they’re asking patients that come to the hospital or doctor’s offices of they’ve traveled recently. That’s because symptoms of the flu and coronavirus are very similar.

"We definitely are watching it every day. We are on call every day to keep up to date with what's going on with coronavirus, but everything that we do for coronavirus preparation is the same for flu,” said Stephanie Bosgraaf, Saint Francis Hospital Infection Preventionist.

The CDC said the confirmed symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, but in some cases there are no obvious symptoms, but someone can still test positive for the virus.

Bosgraaf said at this point, prevention is your best bet.

"You would want to take care of yourself, if you're ill you want to stay home. You want to wash your hands, cover your cough, all those things are the same,” Bosgraaf said.

Bosgraaf said in hospitals they have to make sure to isolate the air and any contact with the patient.

Since there's no cure for coronavirus, she said, the only thing hospitals can do is provide "supportive care."

That means they can give fluids and keep patients comfortable, but they just have to wait for it to pass.