The U.S. Congress was warned on Tuesday that the coronavirus could hurt the global economy. (

New Mexico Health Agency on alert for Coronavirus

SANTA FE – To date, fewer than 20 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States. But health officials are closely monitoring the situation, and the New Mexico Department of Health says it is prepared should the illness be detected.

State Epidemiologist Michael Landon said there are no known cases of coronavirus in New Mexico. He added the state was recently ranked among the top 25 for health emergency preparedness in a national report released by the Trust for America’s Health.

“Right now, we’re focused on assuring that if there are any cases of coronavirus in New Mexico, that we can basically investigate those illnesses very quickly and minimize transmission to other people,” Landon said.

Cases have been reported in neighboring Arizona, as well as California. The New Mexico Department of Health encourages anyone returning from China to call the agency directly.

Outbreaks of the new coronavirus in the U.S. are limited to those who have visited China, but Landon said all in-state healthcare providers should stay proactive and vigilant – because the illness has already exceeded the numbers of cases of the 2003 coronavirus known as SARS.

“Part of the problem here is that, with these new viruses, people just don’t have immunity to them,” he said. “And we haven’t been able to develop a vaccine for them, and we don’t have the anti-viral treatments we have for influenza, for this new coronavirus.”

The Chinese government has confirmed more than 1,000 deaths in that country and the toll is expected to rise. On Monday, the World Health Organization proposed an official name for the illness. It said calling it “COVID-19” would avoid stigmatization by avoiding references to people, places or animals associated with the coronavirus.

Author: Roz Brown, Public News Service (NM)