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Health experts explain what the coronavirus is and why Idahoans may be seeing similar symptoms

“Coronavirus can just cause the common cold," said Samantha Birch, an infection prevention specialist with Saint Alphonsus.

BOISE, Idaho — Possible cases of coronavirus continue to be a concern around the U.S. as two cases have now been confirmed in the states - one in Washington and another in Illinois. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently monitoring 63 patients across 22 states for more possible cases. 

As of Friday, the virus has killed 41 people in China and infected at least 1,000 others worldwide. 

With talk of new cases continuing to pop up, many have reached out to KTVB to ask if it's Idaho, many claiming they've seen people with symptoms of the virus. 

A spokesperson with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare told KTVB on Friday afternoon that there are no current cases of the Wuhan strain in Idaho and that the Gem State is not one of the 22 currently being monitored by the CDC for patients possibly carrying the virus.

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Treasure Valley health experts say when it comes to coronavirus, there are different strains of it - many of which surface in the U.S. every winter.

“Coronavirus is just a pretty common virus,” said Samantha Birch, an infection prevention specialist with Saint Alphonsus. “There are a handful of those viruses that regularly circulate and cause respiratory infections.”

In fact, you've probably had coronavirus multiple times in your life - it just wasn't called that.  “Coronavirus can just cause the common cold. Usually, it’s mild to moderate illness,” Birch said. 

Many people can present symptoms of the virus including sore throat, runny nose, fever, cough, etc. But Birch said while many in the United States, and Idaho, are likely being diagnosed with coronavirus, it's not the version from China that has so many concerned. 

“In reality, the people who would be at risk from the novel coronavirus from China are people who have recently traveled to Wuhan City, China or been in close contact with someone who has recently traveled and is ill," she said. "Otherwise you’re not at risk for this new virus.”

RELATED: China coronavirus not a global health emergency yet, WHO says

So what's the difference between the common strain and the novel strain from China?

“Really the difference is that it’s new and we don’t know a lot about it,” Birch said. 

While the common coronavirus can potentially develop into something more serious, like pneumonia, most cases are treated like a common cold and many just have to run their course. 

Birch said local hospitals and physicians are still on the lookout for the new strain. 

“We actually had meetings this afternoon about this new virus and the steps we would take," she said. "And if anyone presents here at any of our facilities or urgent cares or practices, we’ve guided our physicians to take a really thorough travel history and symptom history.”

If anyone has a connection to Wuhan, China and is presenting symptoms of the virus, specimens would be collected from the patient and sent to the CDC for testing. 

So far, neither Saint Alphonsus or St. Luke's has sent any tests to the CDC for testing of the possible Chinese strain of the virus. 

When it comes to prevention, physicians recommend basic hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water and avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth. 

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