Coronavirus concerns addressed in county


February 6, 2020

By Rick Nelson

With news about the new coronavirus 2019-nCOV that originated in China turning into a worldwide pandemic, Wahkiakum County health officers addressed the issue at the Tuesday meeting of the Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners.

The virus started in animals and transferred itself to humans in Wuhan, China. It has since spread around the globe, infecting people with a pneumonia like illness.

The risk to people in the lower Columbia region is low, said Wahkiakum County Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager. Health organizations and governments are taking steps to control the spread.

The coronavirus family includes viruses such as the common cold, Dr. Krager said. The strains of virus can mutate, and as in this case, a virus that affects animals can change and infect humans.

“Health officials are still learning about the virus,” he said. It is thought that there are many mild cases in addition to those which resulted in deaths.

The first case reported in the United State was in Snohomish County. The disease spreads through a cough or sneeze or through contact with droplets from a cough or sneeze.

Health officials track the virus like other infectious diseases, such as measles, by identifying people who are exposed to infected persons and then keeping an eye on them. Federal health officials have been screening travelers returning from China and referring them to quarantine in home or a facility.

“No one in Washington is under quarantine,” Dr. Krager said. “That may change in the next few days.”

According to the US Centers for Disease Control website on Tuesday, there have been 260 people in the country under investigation for the coronavirus, with 11 testing positive, 167 negative and 82 results pending.

People are more at risk from influenza, Dr.Krager said. The flu has killed over 11,000 people across the US this season.

Measures to avoid contacting the disease are those recommended for avoiding other illnesses: Wash hands often; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; also stay home if ill and cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

“And get your flu shot,” Dr. Krager said. “It’s not to late.

Governmental health agencies are at work, said Chris Bischoff, director of county Health and Human Services.

“Washington state has set up an incident command to respond quickly,” he said. “They hold daily phone calls so people around the state can share information.”

Health clinics and provider also receive daily updates which help them look for symptoms out of the ordinary, Dr. Krager said.

For more information about coronavirus, Bischoff recommends researching websites of the state Department of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

“Don’t use social media,” he cautioned.


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