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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local health officials are researching the coronavirus and watching for cases, but say the virus is not an immediate threat here yet.

Alisa Haushalter with the Shelby County Health Department said 20 individuals who traveled to areas where there were cases of the virus were under self-monitoring for 14 days, but none of those people has exhibited symptoms of the virus.

“We do have a plan in place” for any coronavirus outbreak, Haushalter said.

Jon McCullers with University of Tennessee Health Science Center said UTHSC is one of 14 sites across the country for Regional Biocontainment Laboratories.

A team of researchers at UTHSC has been researching the SARS virus for years, and the coronavirus is now in the lab and is being studied, he said.

McCullers said masks could provide some protection from an infected person transmitting the environment, though it would not completely prevent infection.

“If you’re not infected, the masks are of very little use,” he said.

Stay six feet away from people and wash hands regularly, he said. The CDC recommends avoiding travel to China or South Korea right now, he said.

McCullers said UTHSC has not had a chance to study this new virus yet, but the coronavirus has many characteristics with the influenza virus.

Nicholas Hysmith with UTHSC said health officials are monitoring the CDC website and making changes at hospitals and research facilities.

“It’s really a moving, evolving process that we are updating on a daily basis,” he said.

Hysmith said a local website,, will be up Friday.