GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) In Northeast Wisconsin health officials are prepared to deal with the coronavirus, if it were to surface in our area. But for the time being their immediate focus is our severe flu season.

Ever since an individual from the U.S., who traveled through China tested positive for the coronavirus, the chief nursing officer for HSHS St. Vincent and St. Mary’s hospitals says the health system has taken actions to prevent the possible spread of the virus here.

“We screen all patients coming on to the premises. We ask them if they’ve had symptoms like cough or fever. But for this one particularly, we ask if they’ve traveled specifically to Wuhan, China,” said Ken Nelson.

The screening comes at the direction of the CDC and Nelson says staff is being diligent trying to identify any issues. But when it comes to viruses, Nelson says a different one is a greater cause for concern.

“Right now influenza is really top of mind for those of us in healthcare,” Nelson said.

While Nelson says health officials are keeping a close eye on the development of the coronavirus, in Wisconsin right now the flu is having a much greater impact.

“We’ve had 23 adults and one child that have died from influenza this season, so it certainly is a big deal,” Nelson said.

While so far five people have tested positive for coronavirus in the U.S., Nelson says over 6,000 people nationwide have died from the flu. And since September, in Wisconsin over 7,000 cases of the flu have been confirmed.

“Our flu numbers this year are much higher than they were at this time last year,” he said.

Nelson says the best way to protect yourself from these respiratory illnesses is familiar advice.

“The most important thing people can do is wash their hands and again stay away from those that have symptoms.”

And if possible – take the time to get a flu shot.

“I’d be much more worried about getting the flu,” Nelson said.

Five people in Wisconsin are currently being tested for the coronavirus with results pending. Test results for an additional patient under investigation came back negative.