MARYVILLE, Mo. — With a confirmed case of the Novel Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, in Illinois and quarantined Americans in Nebraska, Missourians are still better off worrying about the flu than the respiratory virus from China.
“We are in the heart of flu season, respiratory season, so the biggest risk to people is going to be influenza not (COVID-19),” said Tabitha Frank, Nodaway County public health nurse supervisor. “There are no cases in Missouri that have been confirmed.”
The local health department and health officials at the state level are still paying close attention.
“There’s no need to be concerned at this time,” Frank said.
Anyone traveling from that area, they are going to be automatically quarantined for 14 days, she explained.
“The (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) kind of, spearheads that,” she said. “The CDC knows where everyone’s going so they know those travelers that are coming back from that area.”
However, if the health department received information about a possible case, Frank explained they would monitor that person, typically by phone to keep any possible contagion isolated.
Calling twice per day for temperature and symptom updates, she said is how the department would handle any report of a possible case. Health officials would then begin a “contact investigation.”
“Just because you have those symptoms, doesn’t mean you have (the virus),” she said. “Right now you have to have traveled to that area or been in contact with somebody who has traveled to that area.”
That area is Wuhan, in the Hubei Province of China, where the total of confirmed cases as of Wednesday is 44,653 and the death toll had reached 1,113 in mainland China, according to The Associated Press.
Newly confirmed cases had declined for a second consecutive day to 2,015 from a high of 3,062 earlier in the week, offering a bit of dim optimism.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization named the disease caused by the virus as COVID-19, avoiding any animal or geographic designation to avoid stigmatization and to show the illness comes from a new coronavirus discovered in 2019.
Meanwhile, in the United States, 13 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed, seven in California, according to the CDC.
Hundreds of evacuees in the past two weeks were flown to military bases in California, Texas and Nebraska. Nearly 200 of those first sequestered are about to leave their two-week COVID-19 quarantine at March Air Reserve Base in California.
None of those who flew into March have tested positive for the COVID-19 health officials said, but one evacuee at another base had been found to have the highly infectious virus and was in hospital isolation in San Diego.
No symptoms have been reported among evacuees at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio or a Nebraska National Guard training base in Omaha.
Back in Nodaway County, Frank said the county and state health officials are watching the outbreak closely.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, officials are concerned because little is known about the new virus and it has the potential to cause severe illness and pneumonia in some people.
A DHSS information document about the virus offers a list of symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing, that may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus.
“Currently the risk to the general public is low,” noted the DHSS document. “To minimize the risk of spread, health officials are working with health care providers to promptly identify and evaluate any suspected cases.”
As there are no vaccines currently available to prevent COVID-19 infections, DHSS suggests following CDC guidance and steps used to prevent the spread of flu and the common cold.
- Wash hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home while sick and avoid close contact with others.
- Cover mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
According to a Feb. 1 CDC Health Update, many of the patients with respiratory illness caused by the COVID-19 in China had exposure to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-human transmission. More recently, cases have been confirmed with no exposure to animal markets, indicating that person-to-person spread of the virus has occurred.
The update also compares and finds similarities in the new coronavirus to others from recent history: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, more widely known as SARS, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
“Additional information about 2019-nCoV is needed to better understand transmission, disease severity and risk to the general population,” noted the CDC update. “The goal of the ongoing US public health response is to identify and contain this outbreak and prevent sustained spread of the (Novel Coronavirus) in the United States.”
The Associated Press contributed information for this story.