Two cases of Wuhan Coronavirus have been confirmed in California, along with one confirmed case in Arizona. The outbreak has been moving quickly across international borders to at least twenty other countries.
The Chinese government reports that there have been over 8,200 cases and more than 100 deaths so far. Person-to-person transmission is occurring in China, and now the first person-to-person case has been identified in the United States in Illinois.
A press release from Mono County Public Health reads, “This is a serious public health concern, and the CDC and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have activated emergency operations centers providing guidance and situational updates in a dynamic situation. Hospitals are being asked to screen people for risk of this virus and to take precautions to limit spread if a possible case is encountered.”
Dr. Kevin Flanigan, CEO of Northern Inyo Hospital discussed how different procedures will be implemented locally due to the fears of coronavirus. “We are going to ask every patient for travel history, things are going to change a little bit. Please be cooperative.”
There are fears that coronavirus could turn into a pandemic issue, but at this time it is currently unknown if that is the case. “At this point, we do not know whether this will develop into a global epidemic (pandemic)” Dr. Tom Boo, the Mono County Public Health Officer said. “Based upon the information we have so far, the risk is real and a concerted and determined response is appropriate.”
Dr. Flanigan expressed similar sentiments about the virus saying, “Healthcare providers around the world are extremely worried about this. We know that about 10,000 people die a year from influenza in the United States, but with the Wuhan Virus, we are worried about the unknown.”
Though the Eastern Sierra is a geographically isolated area, if the coronavirus spreads, the region could be in trouble due to its proximity to Southern California, which has already evacuated and quarantined 200 Americans to March Air Force Base in Moreno Valley, CA who were near the epicenter of the outbreak in China.
Moreno Valley is just four hours south of the Eastern Sierra.
Many tourists from Southern California and around the world come to recreate in the area, which could lead to increased exposure to Wuhan coronavirus.
With that being said, Dr. Boo discussed the region’s susceptibility to coronavirus. “It’s a nuanced issue, statistically I think we are less likely to see an early US case. If containment efforts fail and it gets well established in the US, all communities could be affected. We’re of course pretty closely connected to Southern California.”
It is advised that individuals exercise extreme caution due to the dynamic and ever-changing situation. The Center for Diseases Control, California Department of Public Health, and local public health agencies in both Inyo and Mono Counties are working to ensure that the virus does not spread.
According to the NIH CEO, “Robin Christensen our Infection Preventionist, is working with the CDPH and the CDC to prepare in the event that the virus spreads.”
If the disease starts to spread, it may be extremely difficult for public health agencies to contain it because a person can transmit the virus without even knowing they are unwell.
China Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said Sunday that it appeared the “ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger” and that it is infectious before symptoms show.
“From observations, the virus is capable of transmission even during incubation period” of one to 14 days, Ma said. “There are hidden carriers.”
As far as avoiding the virus, the Mono County Department of Public Health says to practice standard infectious diseases prevention such as washing hands regularly, staying at home when feeling ill, disinfecting ‘hot zones’ in your home in the kitchen and bathroom, avoid contact with sick persons, avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth, and wear a surgical mask.
“My most important message to individuals would be do your part to protect yourself and others. Cough into your sleeve, wash your hands, call your healthcare provider for guidance, and stay home from work if you’re feeling sick.” Flanigan added.