The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that is spreading around the world has not yet reached New Mexico, but UNM Health Sciences experts are taking every precaution to mount an effective response in the event it does appear here.

While the disease originated in China in late December, it is not confined to a particular population or region. Cases have also been reported in Europe, the Middle East and South America – and even in a few places in the U.S. You can reference our coronavirus resource page for the latest information, as well as links to other sources. 

UNM Hospital epidemiologist Meghan Brett, MD, offers some common-sense guidance about how to limit the spread of the disease (they’re similar to the practices in place for other upper respiratory infections, such as influenza).

These include:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Key times include after touching door handles and other surfaces that are frequently touched by other people, or after coughing. Use hand sanitizers.
  • Try to reduce how often you touch your face – your eyes, nose and mouth are the commonest routes of infection. This takes practice: most of us touch our faces 150 to 200 times per day.
  •  If you think you might be sick (especially if you have a fever), stay home instead of coming into work. You’ll recover more quickly there and you’ll protect your coworkers and patients from infections. Remember to rest and drink plenty of fluids
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve. Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands. Watch our video on how to properly cover your cough.
  • Stay informed. Many new details about the spread of COVID-19 emerge each day. You will find some links below to sites that provide reliable and up-to-date information.

The take-home message is that we should take sensible precautions for all respiratory viral illnesses and continue to be prepared in case COVID-19 does start circulating here in New Mexico.

But there is no need to panic. Health care providers manage these risks every day and have the expertise and resources needed to deal with this disease.

Cristina Beato, MD, UNM’s executive director of health policy, points out that this year’s flu outbreak has given greater cause for concern. In the current flu season, more than 100 children and 16,000 adults have died, she says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the following symptoms for influenza:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches, including headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (usually more common with children)

According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms include

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

To learn more about the latest developments in the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

New Mexico Department of Health COVID-19 Website

Tracking of Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Americans to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak at home that could lead to significant disruptions of daily life. Coronavirus has only been seen in a few places in the United States and there is currently no person to person transmission ongoing in the United States or in New Mexico, according to Dr. Meghan Brett, UNM Hospitals epidemiologist and doctor of adult infectious disease.

 “This is not the time to panic, but rather a time to prepare yourself,” Dr. Brett says. She recommends the following actions to keep yourself safe and prevent the spread of infection:

  1. If you have cold, cover your cough.
  2. Wash your hands regularly. 
  3. Stay home if you are sick.
  4. Get your flu shot.