With the impeachment trial fizzling and soon to be over, the national news media will be searching for something else to hype and exploit, especially going into the weekend. Expect that to be the coronavirus outbreak. 

Yes, health experts say the coronavirus, which for the moment is centered in and around Wahun, China, could impact the United States in a big way. But right now they say the risk of a full-scale outbreak in the U.S. is low. As a matter of fact, your chances of contracting and then dying from influenza are far greater than contracting and dying from the coronavirus.

Because there is even a low risk that the coronavirus could spread in the U.S., the government is taking it seriously. Various airlines have canceled some flights to and from China. Passengers traveling to the U.S. from countries where coronavirus has been reported are being screened before departing and upon arrival here, and state and local health agencies and hospitals are on alert. The State Department is also strongly advising Americans not to travel to China right now. 

To date, there have been six confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. All six have been or continue to be treated and are expected to fully recover.  

No one can guarantee that you will not become ill with the coronavirus but there are ways to sharply reduce your susceptibility to the virus, and they all involve common-sense practices that you should be following during cold and flu season anyway: 

  •  Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol.
  • Sneeze and cough into tissues or the crook of your elbow. If you get snot or spit on your skin, clean it off right away. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially people exhibiting respiratory symptoms and fever.
  • Stay home when you're sick.
  • Regularly and thoroughly clean surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs, with a disinfectant. 

Stay in touch with the latest developments and follow instructions from the health experts. Avoid large crowds when possible.

And above all else, don't panic.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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