Health officials preparing for potential spread of coronavirus


Although COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus, has been creating fear worldwide, local and state health officials urge people not to panic.

Thus far, the virus has infected more than 88,000 people across 47 countries. It has claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people worldwide, primarily in mainland China.

Eighty-six cases have been reported in the United States, 15 of which have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None of those cases have been in Indiana.

Many of the cases involved people traveling overseas to affected areas; however, at this time, there have been three cases where it has been spread to someone who has not traveled to an affected area. As of Monday, the United States has two confirmed deaths from coronavirus.

Though it has yet to reach Indiana, local medical professionals are preparing for the potential of coronavirus spreading to Jackson County.

Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department, said the department is watching it closely.

Duane Davis, director of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said the agency’s response to the coronavirus is to spread awareness of the issue and promote ways for people to remain safe.

Davis said he and his team will be giving their full support to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and the county health department with any sort of plan they might choose to implement.

Montgomery said the health department will be waiting for further instruction from the CDC before they decide on any specifics about how they should handle the virus in the event it appears here.

According to a statement from Stephanie Furlow, director of marketing for Schneck, the hospital has a certified infectious disease doctor on the medical staff supported by hospitalists, who care for the most serious patients on a daily basis.

“Each and every department is involved in creating a safe place to work and receive care,” Furlow said.

In addition, Schneck’s infectious disease protocols outline a step‐by‐step process to care for patients with such diseases from the point the patient presents to the emergency department through isolation, placement and personal protective equipment to discharge after recovery.

Stacy East, an infection preventionist at Schneck, said while there is currently no vaccine, the virus may not affect everyone so strongly.

“There are no medications specifically approved for COVID-19,” East said. “Most people with mild coronavirus illnesses will recover on their own and may not require hospitalization; however, some people develop pneumonia and require increased medical care or hospitalization.”

Montgomery, Davis and East all champion the use of basic preventative measures for those worried.

“If you aren’t feeling well, stay home. Don’t spread it,” Montgomery said.

The trio also mentioned the importance of the frequent washing of hands with soap and water during this time.

Sabrina Briggs with First Care Urgent Care, which has a location in Seymour, said in a news release that in addition to soap and water, hand sanitizer has been an effective neutralizer of other coronaviruses in the past.

“When you touch your hands to your face, the virus can spread,” Briggs said. “To prevent the spread of the flu and COVID-19, wash your hands with soap and water and avoid touching your face. Using hand sanitizer has worked on coronaviruses in the past and should be used for good measure.”

She also said masks are ineffective as a way to prevent people from catching the virus and instead should be worn by those already affected as a way to prevent it from spreading.

Schneck Medical Center says they will also be preparing packets for schools and industry to use in their preparedness efforts as well as educate their employees.

During a news conference Thursday, the Indiana State Department of Health provided more details about what it knows about the coronavirus at this time.

The department has been monitoring individuals who have recently traveled to affected areas, and that monitoring will continue for 14 days before they are removed from the program as long as they’re healthy. Sixty people have been monitored in total with 26 currently being monitored.

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said now is the time to plan, not panic.

“The situation with this novel coronavirus is changing rapidly, and I know that can cause concern because we don’t have all the answers yet,” she said. “What we do have, however, is a plan for how to respond if and when COVID-19 comes to Indiana.”

Box said the state is working with partners at the state, local and federal levels to refine existing pandemic response plans. These revisions will prepare communities to respond to local transmission of the virus.

“Indiana has responded to pandemics before, and we have many tools to keep Hoosiers safe,” Box said. “While we can’t predict which measures might be necessary, we have trained in their use and can deploy these strategies quickly if the need arises.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause anything from a common cold to SARS or MERS.

COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus family and causes an upper respiratory infection, like the flu.

Fever, cough and shortness of breath are all symptoms of COVID-19.

Affected geographies include China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Iran.

In order to contract COVID-19, you would need to be in contact with someone who has been infected. The coronavirus cannot transfer on its own. It needs a method of transportation in order to make it to your lungs.

If you or someone you know has traveled to these countries recently, be aware of possible symptoms.

Source: First Care Urgent Care


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