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Local, state health officials taking steps to prevent coronavirus, report possible cases

Posted: 12:32 PM, Jan 24, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-24 12:50:56-05
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CLEVELAND — With a second U.S. case of coronavirus reported in Chicago Friday morning, Ohio and local authorities are taking steps to ensure any cases of the disease are reported, although officials say Cleveland is currently at low risk.

Hospitals

Cleveland Clinic is screening patients on intake for possible travel from China, confirmed Andrea Pacetti with the clinic.

Airports

A Cleveland Hopkins International Airport official stated that they are following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alert, which recommends avoiding non-essential travel to Wuhan, China, and provides the following guidance to those planning on traveling to China, and those who have traveled from China in the last two weeks who are exhibiting symptoms.

Travelers to China should:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

If you traveled to China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

The CDC currently lists the novel coronvirus as a Level 1 Watch, meaning usual health precautions should be practiced.

State response

The Ohio Department of Health has declared novel coronavirus an immediately reportable disease, elevating it to a Class A disease, according to a news release from ODH. No cases have been reported in Ohio to date, but this is a proactive step to ensure appropriate reporting of suspected cases.

ODH is closely monitoring developments related to the 2019-nCoV disease with the CDC, though it is currently considered a low risk to the American public.

The ODH states:

“Classifying a disease as Class A means that confirmed or suspected cases of 2019-nCoV must be reported immediately to the local health district where the person lives (or the local health district where the person is being evaluated if the person’s residence is unknown or not in Ohio). Required reporters include physicians providing care, administrators in charge of hospitals, clinics or other institutions providing care or treatment, laboratory administrators, or any individual having knowledge of a person with nCoV.”
Ohio Department of Health

ODH stated that their team of state experts, local health departments and local partners are performing daily monitoring of reportable diseases, including coronavirus. They are monitoring the situation in lockstep with the CDC and are ready to respond if a case is reported in Ohio.

“This situation is at the heart of public health,” said Dr. Amy Acton, Director of ODH. “We are working proactively with healthcare providers and local health districts/partners to identify and appropriately address emerging threats like novel Coronavirus.”

If a case or suspected case is reported to a local health department, the ODH will report it to the CDC, and if indicated, patient specimens will be collected and shipped to the CDC, where testing must take place. ODF will work with local, state and federal partners to investigate reports of the disease to identify cases and prevent the spread in infection.

RELATED: Read ODH's news release on the coronavirus here.

What should I do?

If you suspect you may have been exposed to coronavirus because you have traveled to China or have been around people who may have been exposed and/or are exhibiting symptoms, ODH says to contact your healthcare provider and let them know you may have been exposed before visiting the healthcare facility. This will help the provider’s office take precautionary steps to keep others from possibly being exposed.

Just as with influenza and other illnesses, ODH says it is critical that you protect yourself, recommending you do the following:

  • Practice good hand hygiene.

  • Follow appropriate cough and sneeze etiquette.

  • Don’t go to work or school when you feel ill. Stay home and rest.

  • Avoid exposure to others who are sick.

“Anticipatory action like this is critical to ensuring that we are protecting Ohioans,” Dr. Acton said. “It is our sincere hope that this virus does not spread but if it does, Ohio’s public health system is prepared.”

What is novel Coronavirus?

There is an ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness first identified in Wuhan, China, caused by a novel, or new, coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, according to the CDC. Person-to-person spread is occurring, although it is currently unclear how easily the virus spreads between people. Other parts of China have had cases among people who traveled from Wuhan.

Two U.S. cases have been reported in Washington state but no deaths have been reported.

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CDC map showing where in the world novel coronavirus has been reported to date.

The outbreak started in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December of 2019, ODH stated. Chinese authorities are reporting an ongoing spread of the virus, and so far, more than 830 individuals are ill and 25 have died.

This virus is part of a large family of coronaviruses, some of which cause illness in people, and others that circulate among animals, according to ODH. Rarely, these viruses can evolve and infect people, then spread among people which is what happened in 2003 with the SARS outbreak and the MERS outbreak in 2014.

These viruses may cause mild to severe respiratory illnesses and their symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, ODH said.