Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital and Brockton Neighborhood Health Center have implemented protocols to screen potential patients

BROCKTON — With the first case of coronavirus now in Massachusetts, the city's hospitals and health centers have begun making preparations to treat patients with potential symptoms and prevent the spread of the infectious disease.

365备用网址APP"We're as prepared as we can be," said Karen Mark, director of nursing, at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center. 

Hospitals and health centers have put in place screening procedures recommended by the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask people with symptoms of coronavirus about their travel history. 

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365备用网址APPCoronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019. The CDC is asking health providers to identify whether a person showing symptoms has traveled to China within the past two weeks or has been in close contact with someone who has.

Stacey Ryan, manager of infection prevention at Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital, said screening has been used during previous infectious outbreaks, like Ebola.

"We feel very equipped doing this," she said. "We have people traveling all over the world and we screen every time." 

A representative from Good Samaritan Medical Center was not available for comment.

Since the end of the year, coronavirus has spread to more than 20 countries in multiple continents.

365备用网址APPThe World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared coronavirus a public health emergency last week. 

As of Friday, there are 12 positive coronavirus cases in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin, according to the CDC. 

365备用网址APPBoston Logan International Airport is one of 20 airports identified by the CDC that give risk assessments for passengers arriving from China, according to DPH. 

"Currently the risk of novel coronavirus is low in MA but the situation can be rapidly changed," Dr. Nongnooch Poowanawittayakom, an infectious disease specialist at Brockton Neighborhood Health, wrote in an email.

There are several types of coronaviruses and the strain from China is considered a new one.

They affect the respiratory system and are spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and pneumonia in severe cases, according to the CDC. 

If someone recently traveled to China or had close contact with someone who did and is showing symptoms, the CDC recommends isolating them. Next would be to examine the patient and report the case to the health department.

This process is similar to how Brockton Neighborhood health handles potential cases of airborne illnesses, which can include coronavirus.

A nurse at the switchboard would know to have someone meet the patient outside and give them a mask, said Assistant Nurse Director Kay Higdon. 

365备用网址APPThey would be evaluated in an urgent care room that is closest to the outside, she said, and the patient would be brought in through a side entrance to avoid contact with people in common areas.

Ryan said people who have symptoms of coronavirus but haven't come to the hospital should call their primary care doctor. They would advise whether a patient should come in or stay home.

Because there isn't a specific treatment for coronavirus, the hospital or health center would focus on a patient's symptoms. 

Prevention and protection are also important, doctors and nurses say. 

365备用网址APPA few weeks ago, Mark ordered more respirator masks to have extras on hand. 

Last week, Brockton Neighborhood Health staff members were fitted for a mask called an N95 respirator which can block most small particles present in the air. 

Other protective equipment like gowns, gloves and eye protection can be used too. 

365备用网址APP"We want to be prepared for those situations," Mark said.

365备用网址APPTo prevent the risk of coronavirus, people can take steps they would when encountering the flu or a cold. They can wash their hands often with soap and warm water, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home if they feel sick. 

On top of preparing for coronavirus and daily operations, Brockton Hospital and Brockton Neighborhood Health are handling another infectious disease: influenza. 

365备用网址APPFlu season is still underway and the city's hospitals have seen an uptick in flu diagnoses and visits to the emergency department.

365备用网址APPStatewide, there have been between 25,000 and 30,000 emergency room visits for the flu and between 3,000 and 4,000 people have been hospitalized, according to DPH.

The symptoms for the flu and coronavirus can be similar, Ryan and Mark noted. 

365备用网址APP"We're much more concerned about the flu than coronavirus, but we have to be on top of everything," Mark said.

365备用网址APPStaff writer Mina Corpuz can be reached at mcorpuz@abrepalermo.com. Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz