The death toll of the novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China, has risen to more than 900 people out of the 41,000 or so who’ve been affected. The deadly disease claimed 97 lives as of February 9, and an American who was in Wuhan at the time also died, but the virus hasn’t made its way to Nevada as of yet.
The coronavirus has also spread to other parts of the world, including confirmed cases in: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, India, the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Russia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, France, Malaysia, Germany, Belgium, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and most notably, the United States.
As of February 10, there were 12 cases reported in the United States: one in the State of Washington, one in Arizona, one in Wisconsin, two in Illinois, one in Massachusetts, and six in California. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out more than 300 test kits (each one that can take anywhere from 700-800 patient samples) in the United States and only those 12 have come back positive.
The number of people who’ve died from the virus surpassed the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, and many people are outraged over how the Chinese government has handled communication of the disease as well as how it has been transmitted through wild game markets.
Locally here in Northern Nevada, the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) has received dozens of calls from concerned citizens about the coronavirus and is working diligently with the CDC to mitigate risk.
“The Washoe County Health District is monitoring the issue of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) closely and working with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on a daily basis to understand the latest findings. We currently have no confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus in Washoe County, and remain at a very low risk at this time. Residents are much more likely to get influenza, which has caused more than 150 hospitalizations and three deaths in Washoe County since October,” says WCHD Communications Manager Scott Oxarart.
The WCHD encourages people to help to prevent contracting any illness, whether it be flu or Novel Coronavirus, to:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
- Stay at home when you’re sick
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or sleeve
The WCHD believes that the CDC has been working hard to make sure there’s not an outbreak in the United States and they’ve done a lot at U.S. airports to monitor people coming into the country from Wuhan City or other affected parts of China.
Just because there hasn’t been an outbreak in the United States doesn’t mean that Washoe County isn’t on high alert. Regarding the novel coronavirus, the WCHD has:
- Established weekly team meetings internal staff to discuss plans for IF it has to isolate/quarantine anyone, updates from the field, and how to handle a positive case.
- Developed mechanisms to check in with those who are ill but do not meet the CDC’s criteria to be tested (Person Under Investigation criteria) to help to identify persons who are not recovering from their illness or suddenly get worse. It has also emphasized the importance of letting healthcare providers know before they show up to their appointment and to wear mask if possibly infected.
- Ongoing discussions with its state epidemiologist, state medical officer, and CDC consults.
- Hosted calls with local medical providers and first responders to determine personal protective equipment availability and communicate the ever-changing Infection Control and Prevention Guidelines.
- Developed a FAQ/Infographic for the public to view, available on the WCHD website main page: https://www. washoecounty.us/health/
Oxarart says that the WCHD also has an infectious disease protocol in place that addresses a wide variety of communicable diseases and isolation procedures but because this is such a new virus, the WCHD would closely with the CDC in the event Washoe County had a confirmed case.
Within local Washoe County schools, WCSD Student Health Services Assistant Director Jennifer Crane says that it would immediately refer to the Health Department in the event of a coronavirus epidemic.
“We encourage hand washing and follow directions from the Health Department in case there is an outbreak. We tell kids to stay home when they’re sick, covering your cough, and don’t share food,” she says.
On top of the coronavirus being out there, Crane says there’s the added pressure of it being flu season. To stay healthy, Crane wants to remind people to not touch their face.
“Hand sanitizers are around the schools and work in a pinch, but washing your hands is really the key. It’s huge taking care of yourself and staying home when you’re sick,” Crane adds.
On February 5, Renown Regional Medical Center also hosted an infectious disease exercise with staff that experimented with a protocol surrounding an event if a patient came in with respiratory symptoms of a highly infectious disease like Ebola. If that were to happen, Renown is prepared to hold a patient and stabilize them for four days before transporting them to the designated medical center in Los Angeles.
For more information about the novel coronavirus and how to stay healthy in Northern Nevada, visit https://www.washoecounty. us/health/.