In response to a recent official Centers for Disease and Control proclamation that ’A coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is not a question of if but when,’ Pratt County Health Department Administrator Darcie Van Der Vyver, RN, said she continues to constantly monitor news and guidelines released every day by the CDC(Center for Disease and Control).
"The quick changing situation of the COVID-19 virus is something we need to pay attention to, but not panic about,"Van Der Vyver said. "We continue to be at low risk with no confirmed cases in Kansas."
The current outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified in China but has now spread internationally, impacting an increasing number of countries. Sustained community spread is occurring in China. Limited person-to-person spread, most associated with close contact with a patient with confirmed 2019-nCoV, has been seen outside of China.
No community spread of 2019-nCoV has been identified in the United States at this time.
An individual Kansas thought to have coronavirus last week in Douglas County was cleared with a negative test result and released from Lawrence Memorial Hospital last week.
A hospital spokesperson said the symptoms of novel coronavirus include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever spike. Concerned individuals should seek medical help right away, calling ahead before seeing a doctor or going to an emergency room.
Not all similar symptoms indicate the presence of the coronavirus infection however.
"We are pleased that test results were negative and that the patient remains in good health. He had been released from LMH Health and was in a monitored, isolated living space following CDC guidelines," said Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary. "He will now be able to resume his normal routine, and there is no risk to the public."
Back in Pratt, Van Der Vyver said the CDC has released information stating that it expects to confirm more cases in the United States, including some person-to-person spread in the coming weeks, but the goal of CDC’s aggressive ongoing public health response is to prevent spread of 2019-nCoV in the United States.
"We need to avoid contact with sick people and stay home if sick,"Van Der Vyver said. "Germs are spread from people touching their own eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, so hand washing is extremely, extremely important."
Hand-washing protocol includes washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Further guidelines from the CDC advise a limit on international travel, particularly to China. Facemasks are not recommended for the U.S. public as they will not stop the spread of 2019-nCoV.
"We just need to do the things we would normally do during cold and flu season, and really do them,"Van Der Vyver said. "Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; germs spread this way."
Van Der Vyver said those with compromised health issues or low immune systems should be particularly aware of the risks at this time.
"You don’t need to live in a bubble, but it would be best to avoid crowds, just stay home whenever possible, and wash hands, wash hands, wash hands," she said. "Infection happens when you touch an infected surface, then touch your own mouth or nose."
Van Der Vyver also said everyone should start thinking about making an emergency plan for when the disease spreads, such as keeping a 14-day supply of groceries per person in each house.
"We are not there yet," she said. "But it doesn’t hurt to think ahead. Just don’t panic. There is nothing to panic about. The common flu is still a much bigger health risk than coronavirus."
Van Der Vyver shared the following links for those who want to closely monitor the situation for themselves: http://www.cdc.gov/ncov, http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus/index.htm.