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Officials: Call before going to the doctor or emergency room if you think you have coronavirus

Spanish Virtually

As central and northern New York prepares for potential cases of the coronavirus, health experts are repeating one piece of advice to potential patients: Anyone who thinks they have the virus should call their doctor, urgent care center or an emergency room before heading into a waiting room.

If COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, turns up in central and northern New York, the last thing Crouse Hospital Chief Medical Officer Seth Kronenberg wants to see, are people flooding to emergency rooms to get tested for the virus.

"With all the other patients that are there, it’s the same with flu, everything is transmissible, and the quicker we can isolate potential patients the better," said Kronenberg.

Upstate University Hospital infectious disease expert Stephen Thomas said crowded waiting rooms were one reason the Ebola virus spread so quickly during the West Africa Ebola epidemic. And it’s happened with some respiratory viruses as well.

"Both SARS and MERS-CoV, a lot of transmission and a lot of infections occurred in the hospital setting. You had infected people mixing with uninfected patients. Uninfected staff getting those people getting infected and those in turn infecting other people."

So, if an individual feels sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, and has a potential connection to COVID-19, their first call should be to their doctor, who will work with the state health department to determine if testing is necessary. And in an emergency, Kronenberg says it’s best to call the emergency room before arriving.

"We have isolation rooms in the Emergency Department, so if we have a suspected case we know is coming in, we will meet them at the door, mask them, take them to an isolation room and be able then do the triage to see if a person needs to be tested or not."

As of Sunday, New York has 105 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, most of them – 82 – are in Westchester. There are currently two cases in upstate New York, both in Saratoga County.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.