How does North Carolina prepare for possible coronavirus cases

US health officials say it's not a question of if but when we see more cases of the coronavirus here.

But a local doctor says now is not the time to panic.

"The risk is negligible today but the challenge is it's changed a lot in the last week or two," said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, infectious disease specialist at Duke University's School of Medicine.

He believes the CDC is being appropriately cautious with its heightened alert Tuesday.

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"There now have been multiple other countries where cases of this appeared where we don't have a clear linkage of how the individuals became sick," Dr. Wolfe said.

Until now health officials said they'd hope to prevent community spread into the US but following community transmissions in Italy, Iran and South Korea, some experts believe the virus may not be able to be contained at the border.

"We prepared to this point to examine cases of people who had come from China and now we have to imagine what it would be like if travel is not such a defining point to be your risk," he said.

The travel restrictions, according to Dr. Wolfe, so far to countries like China have bought Duke's team and others time to hopefully still avoid this.

"Even if coronavirus were to come here with more frequency than what we see at the moment, we've had a solid month and half now of good preparation time where lab capacity has improved, testing capabilities have improved, hospitals have gone back and drilled in to all of their staff about how to be ready to handle a patient and how you'd manage a patient," he said.

US Customs and Protection Border said the CDC has a multi-layered public health approach to protect the American public.

They didn't specify what kind of screening is happening at RDU.

A spokesperson said they continue to "facilitate the CDC's enhanced health screening of travelers entering or attempting to enter the United States with a nexus to Wuhan or with recent travel to China due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus. This enhance screening is for symptoms specifically related to the novel coronavirus and is conducted by CDC personnel upon a traveler's arrival."

Dr. Wolfe said the possibility of a vaccine is on the horizon but it could take months to roll out.
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