What has become a word the world is concerned about found its way into the Mid-South vocabulary Sunday when Shelby County, Tennessee Mayor Lee Harris announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus, in his county.

This is the third case reported in the state of Tennessee, as of Sunday, one in Shelby County and the other two in the Nashville area.

There have been no reported cases of the virus in Mississippi, state Department of Health spokeswoman Liz Sharlot told the DeSoto Times-Tribune Sunday evening. But, Sharlot did say there have been only a few Mississippians who have been tested.

“As of Friday, we had 14 tests,” Sharlot said. “I do know those are all physician-submitted, based on symptoms, travel, and association with those that were infected.”

Sharlot added there are ample testing kits in Mississippi at this time and the state is not in a shortage mode.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of coronavirus cases has topped 500 and more than 20 people have died from the virus in the United States.

Health officials are quick to point out that stopping the spread of coronavirus is as easy as a good scrubbing of your hands, at least for 20 seconds, officials said.

“It’s very important for us not to incite fear,” Sharlot said. “The best thing people can do is practice good hygiene, stay away from people who are sick, and stay home if you are sick. Just because you have a case in Shelby County does not mean you’re suddenly going to have 20,000 cases.”

In DeSoto County, officials are taking precautions when ambulance calls involve a patient that may have the flu.

“We have changed our dispatch protocol where if somebody calls dispatch for an ambulance and they have flu-like symptoms,” said County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard. “They’ll ask if they’ve traveled outside the country and one of the ‘hot’ areas. If they do, the medic will put the personal protective gear on and they will contact the hospital before they get there, to let them know."

Lynchard added she was not aware of any specific case where protective gear had to be put on by EMS personnel on a call.

This is Spring Break week for DeSoto County Schools, so classes are not in session. But Supt. Cory Uselton said district officials are monitoring the situation and ready to act with guidance from the state Health Department and state Department of Education.

“Anytime we have a type of illness outbreak, we always rely on them for expertise,” Uselton said late last week. “At the same time, we are doing a more thorough cleaning of our schools and just monitoring the news and to see if there any cases in this area. We just want to make sure that we’re being proactive with it, while at the same time following the guidance from the professionals.”

The Centers for Disease Control has the following suggestions for people to prevent the spread of coronavirus:

* Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

* Avoid touching the face with unwashed hands.

* Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

* Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, and throw the tissue away.

* Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.