Keeping an eye on the Coronavirus, what it means for Florida residents

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The coronavirus outbreak is reaching new levels.

Chinese officials say more than 200 people have died so far in the outbreak. (MGN)

All major U.S. airlines announced Friday they'll suspend flights to and from China.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. government declared a global health emergency.

"Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it," World Health Organization Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the seventh case here in the United States on Friday evening.

However, in the middle of the panic, Gulf Coast Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Helmrich said the alarm has been overstated.

"We know the number of deaths, and it's actually not that great," Dr. Helmrich said.

Chinese officials say more than 200 people have died so far in the outbreak, but Dr. Helmrich reminds folks that number doesn't compare to the amount of flu-related deaths.

"I would tell you the same thing about this virus as I would about another virus," Dr. Helmrich said.

There have been no cases reported in Florida so far, but the Florida Department of Health is continuously working with the CDC to monitor the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees says getting vaccinated, "reduces the spread of the virus and can also help make illnesses less severe for those who do still get sick."

So, is the coronavirus similar to the flu?

"We're talking influenza-like illnesses or ILS. And this is actually just going to fall in that group so it's going to be the fever, the congestion, and ultimately this coronavirus is going to cause pneumonia," Dr. Helmrich said.

There have been two potential cases in Bay County.

"We've had two people that had potential exposure and we worked with the local health department and the CDC and we were actually complimented on the way we handled it because we were very quickly asking about foreign travel and getting people masks very quickly," Dr. Helmrich said.

Those two people ended up not testing positive for the coronavirus, but it reminds folks here to keep their health a top priority.

Dr. Helmrich said to treat the coronavirus like any other respiratory illness: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and stay away from other sick people.

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