MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department says it’s monitoring 20 people who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus while overseas.
However, local health officials say there is no outbreak in the Mid-South, and the flu virus is a much larger threat locally.
“Currently, there is no outbreak of the coronavirus in Shelby County, Tennessee, Mississippi or Arkansas,” said health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph. “We’re really encouraging people not to become hysterical.”
Randolph said the 20 people under monitoring have not shown any symptoms, but the department will check on them after 14 days. This is only a precautionary measure as recommended by the CDC, and Randolph said people locally have little to worry about.
“They’re not quarantined,” Randolph said. “What we’re asking is that they self-isolate.”
Randolph said, despite the threat of the coronavirus, residents have a higher chance of catching the flu.
To date, the coronavirus has killed more than 1,000 people worldwide, infecting more than 40,000 people, the Shelby County Health Department says.
But since the start of flu season, Randolph said, influenza has killed more than 10,000 people in the U.S. and has infected nearly 20 million people worldwide.
He said the chance of someone in the Mid-South getting the coronavirus is very low.
“Your greatest fear needs to be the flu,” Randolph said.
Health officials said the two viruses have similar symptoms such as cough and fever, and they encourage everyone to seek medical attention immediately if they feel they have been exposed.
The Shelby County Health Department is still offering free flu vaccines at all health clinics.