HMC denies coronavirus rumor

Hilo Medical Center on Tuesday denied rumors circulating on social media that a case of coronavirus was confirmed at the hospital.

A post on Instagram, shared by one other user, claimed a co-workers wife “works at the Hilo hospital and she jus informed us that’s there’s one confirmed case of coronavirus.”

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“We are absolutely denying that,” HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said. “That’s untrue. It’s a complete rumor and misinformation.”

Cabatu said there is no validation that an employee actually made such a statement, but HMC is “looking into it” and reminding employees to abide by patient privacy protocols and laws.

The original post has been deleted although the shared post remained up Tuesday afternoon.

Cabatu said she was made aware of the post earlier today and alerted hospital leadership.

Within a few hours, the misinformation started to “spread throughout our community,” and Cabatu said she began receiving calls and text messages about the post and the emergency department also received calls.

“Spreading misinformation like this causes undue and unneeded stress and anxiety in our community,” she said.

Cabatu said individuals should get information about the virus from official sources, like the state Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A DOH spokeswoman confirmed there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hawaii.

The outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus has been caused by a previously unidentified coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, on Dec. 31.

As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 24,000 cases have been confirmed and nearly 500 deaths have been reported, largely in mainland China. Eleven cases have been confirmed in the United States.

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Common coronaviruses in humans usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of the newly identified virus include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. At this time, the CDC believes symptoms might appear 2-14 days after exposure.

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