Clark County Public Health has started the outreach and education process around coronavirus, but Southwest Washington residents shouldn’t be worried over the virus outbreak at this point, even with a case in Snohomish County.
“We’re paying a lot of attention to this,” said Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick.
Since the outbreak began in December in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, the new strain of coronavirus, a respiratory illness, has infected nearly 3,000 people, mostly in China. At least 81 deaths have been recorded in China so far, and five cases have been discovered in the U.S.: one in Washington, one in Arizona, two in California and one in Illinois. They are more than 100 people in the U.S. being evaluated for a possible infection.
On Jan. 21, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington Department of Health announced Washington’s first confirmed case, which manifested in a Snohomish County man who had recently traveled to Wuhan City.
Melnick said Public Health has been educating providers on the virus, and educating the public through social media.
He said the only reason to be worried about catching the virus right now is if you have traveled to Wuhan City recently, or have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus.
“The risk to people in Clark County is incredibly low right now,” Melnick said.
This strain of coronavirus can cause pneumonia, according to the state department of health. Human coronavirus is most commonly spread through the air by coughing and sneezing, “close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands,” according to the state department of health.
Symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever. If you have traveled to Wuhan City and have symptoms, you should contact a local health care provider. You should not just show up at the local emergency room unexpectedly, Melnick said, since that could further spread the virus.
Precautions for coronavirus are similar to precautions for the cold or flu. Wash your hands, clean objects and surfaces, avoid contact with people who are sick. Melnick said local, national and international health departments and organizations are gathering data on the virus and its severity. He said there are still unknowns about the timeline of when people are contagious with the virus, and the severity of the virus.
Melnick said the investigation and outreach process is similar to what happened during Clark County’s measles outbreak last year, which recorded 71 confirmed cases — one difference is there is currently no vaccine for coronavirus. Investigators interview the confirmed case, and find out their contacts and places visited. Those contacts are then placed under active monitoring and advised to stay home.
He said Public Health will be prepared if there is a coronavirus that appears under their jurisdiction.
“We need to be really vigilant at this point,” he said.