Anxiety grows as coronavirus numbers increase, but how worried should you be?

With mounting cases of coronavirus, anxiety is rising too. 

Mental health professionals across the Bay Area are hearing from people, alarmed about possibly catching the virus themselves. 

But experts say it's important to keep perspective- while taking precautions. 

"There's the devil we know, that's influenza, and then there's this novel virus," said Dr. Matt Willis, Public Health Officer for Marin County, which activated its Emergency Operations Center on Thursday. 

Marin County has no community-acquired cases yet, but Willis says it most certainly will in time. 

He urges residents to balance their worry with information, and recognize that this epidemic will runs its course, as others have before. 

"We actually have a lot of control over this," Willis told KTVU. 

"The disease that we're trying to prevent is not nearly as serious, in most cases, as we originally thought it would be." 

Willis notes fear is contagious too, causing people to stockpile supplies of disinfectant and other cleaning products.  

"I bought water, hand sanitizers, and sanitizing wipes, I don't know how effective they'll be but I may as well try," said San Rafael resident Joanne Arakaki.

"But you can't be paranoid and lock yourself up to stay safe, that's not going to work either," Arakaki added.  

Each day brings more cases and closures, more warnings and restrictions on normal activities and events, across California and the country.  

"There's the unknown and how quickly it spreads," said Nancy Lowry of San Rafael. "Would I get on a cruise ship right now? Probably not, but I probably wouldn't have anyway."

Lowry and Arakaki were romping with their dogs at McInnis Park, outdoor exercise that therapists say is a great antidote to worry and stress. 

"Find ways to control that anxiety by talking to someone, maybe getting a laugh, just connecting with people in a way that feels safe to you," advised Dr. Jei Africa, Mental Health Director for County of Marin. 

With so much information, and misinformation on the outbreak, Africa says it's important to seek reliable sources and don't become too immersed in it.  

"Anxiety can really paralyze someone, distorts their thinking, and they can't do anything they normally do because they're so worried they can't sleep or eat, they just ruminate," he explained.  

Novato resident Sharon Marino said she has not stockpiled cleaning supplies, and is surprised to see so much apprehension.  

"In our office, we have a hand sanitizer and it got drained, in one day, from people coming in and out," Marino noted.

"You have to know who the high-risk groups are and take common-sense precautions."

Experts say one positive aspect to anxiety is that it motivates people toward healthier practices, such as hand-washing, coughing into one's arm, and staying home when ill.

"These are messages that went over like public service announcements that people didn't pay attention to," said WIllis. "But I think people are hearing the message now."