Allegheny Co. Health Dept. Working With CDC In Case Coronavirus Reaches Western Pa.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s new, rapidly spreading and deadly: just three reasons why one local historian said anxiety about the coronavirus will continue to surge in the Pittsburgh area.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller sat down with the University of Pittsburgh professor to explain how we can put this new virus into perspective.

“The last episode we had where the general public was worried about an infectious disease broadly was the Ebola virus in 2014-2015,” said Mari Webel, Assistant Professor of History at University of Pittsburgh.

Professor Webel said 10 years before that, we dealt with a different type of coronavirus: SARS.

“A lot of people find this very alarming because there’s a lot of news and news is being updated very rapidly.”

She’s updating her students daily and fielding many questions including: What happens if it comes here? What will the symptoms look like? Should I travel to outside of the country?

“Most of the anxiety is because people see it as something very new, right?”

Professor Webel said we didn’t really know about it prior to this latest outbreak and that in itself is scary.

Up the street at Carnegie Mellon University, KDKA spotted a handful of students walking around wearing masks.

Carnegie Mellon University health officials are advising students to adhere to the CDC’s elevated travel warning due to the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The travel warning urges people to avoid all nonessential travel to China.

CMU officials say while there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus at the university, they are watching the situation closely. The university has a large international student population.

The epicenter of the outbreak is in Wuhan, China, which is one of Pittsburgh’s sister cities.

Wednesday’s latest numbers show at least 132 people have died of the virus. All of the victims in China, according to CBS News. About 6,000 people have been sickened around the world, including five cases in the United States.

It’s all hands on deck at the Allegheny County Health Department, and Dr. Kristen Mertz says her first call is to the CDC if someone has symptoms.

The Allegheny County Health Department says there are no cases of the illness in Pennsylvania or in Allegheny County.

WATCH LIVE: Allegheny County Health Department Talks About Coronavirus Preparations

However, they are also monitoring the situation closely and working with local hospitals, clinics and Pittsburgh International Airport.

If there are any cases under investigation in Allegheny County or Pennsylvania, the county health department says it won’t announce anything unless it’s confirmed.

Back at CMU, they are urging any student who has visited Wuhan and is exhibiting symptoms of fever or cough to report immediately to University Health Services.

For more information on the coronavirus, visit the Allegheny County Health Department’s website here.

Stay with KDKA for Meghan Schiller’s full report on this story at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.