Health officals say coronavirus is on its way to Michiana

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - As the novel coronavirus spreads across the globe, preparations are in the works for fighting that virus in Michiana.

So far no cases have been reported in Indiana, but the St Joseph County Health Department says that's likely going to change very soon.

“The novel coronavirus, which has now been named COVID-19," Dr. Mark Fox said, "it’s a new virus, so it takes a while to understand transmission.”

Fox is the deputy health officer for St. Joseph County.

"We don’t have any active cases in Indiana at this point,” he said.

That could be changing soon.

"I fully expect that we will see people under suspicion for COVID-19 or people who become symptomatic, become ill, with COVID-19 in our region, probably within the next six weeks would be my guess,” he said.

So what exactly is the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19?

"Coronaviruses are actually a large family of viruses that typically have originated in animals and then in some cases have evolved and are actually transmitted in humans,” Fox explained.

He says COVID-19 can start with similar symptoms to the common cold or flu-like a fever, runny nose or cough.

The virus can travel the same way as the cold and flu, through coughing and sneezing.

So what makes the COVID-19 any different or more dangerous than common flu strains?

"The difference is, we have a vaccine to help protect against influenza. We also have medications that can treat people with influenza. We don't have either of those yet for [COVID-19], because this is a brand new virus," Fox said.

As the world continues to learn more about this mysterious new virus, St. Joseph County is planning ahead for when COVID-19 makes an appearance at home.

"We have to be prepared for that. We've been working with the emergency medical services providers, we've been working with the hospitals and the health care providers, with the universities, working with Notre Dame, really trying to be prepared and having a reasonable way of how do we respond,” Fox added.