ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. health officials say a vaccine for the coronavirus is up to 18 months away, but one infectious disease specialist in Orlando says that's a good timeline, as the testing phase for a vaccine takes a long time to assure it will defend against the disease and do so safely.

Dr. Edwin DeJesus added an additional procedure for his patients who check-in at the Orlando Immunology Center for an appointment: answer whether they are experiencing any respiratory problems, and if they traveled to Asia or Europe.

He said it helps medical professionals vet patients with the coronavirus, as he expects there to be more reported cases in Florida. DeJesus said people should not be afraid but prepared.  

He said to help avoid an infection the public should wash their hands multiple times for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching their faces. He said the coronavirus can remain alive on surfaces. 

DeJesus said when he first studied the respiratory virus in medical school, it only impacted animals. 

"When a person gets infected with a virus that has jumped and transformed and infected humans, it can be a really bad thing because we haven't developed anti-bodies to combat it," he said.

He said to find a vaccine for the disease it could take at least a year. 

"None of (the possible vaccines) are in an advanced stage to be read to help us with an epidemic right now," DeJesus said.

He said the testing phase takes the most time to ensure it works and it's safe.

“It depends what happens at that time," DeJesus said. "Where the focus of infections are happening the most, those are the centers that would be most appropriate to test the vaccine.”

He also said medication is being used to treat the coronavirus.

“Some of the tests are using medication that were designed to treat other infections such as Ebola or HIV," DeJesus said. "Some of those drugs in HIV we actually studied in this center.”

He said the time table for a vaccine a year to 18 months shows the improvements in modern medicine.