Local officials monitoring Coronavirus, threat low in North Carolina

Published 6:34 pm Thursday, January 30, 2020

Since the first case of novel Coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state last week, the virus has been the subject of considerable public concern and daily headlines in major media outlets. Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the disease a global health emergency.

While the risk of any cases in Beaufort County remains low, local officials say they’re monitoring the virus and keeping tabs on the situation with the Center for Disease Control.

“I would definitely caution against panic,” said Beaufort County Health Department Director Jim Madson. “The health department is going to stay on top of following this, so if it ever got to the point where we were worried, we would let everybody know.”

As of Thursday, there were six confirmed cases in the U.S. in Washington, California, Arizona and Illinois. A total of 165 people nationwide were bring tested for the virus in 36 states. No cases have been confirmed in North Carolina.

Thursday afternoon, the CDC confirmed the first human-to-human transmission of the virus in the U.S., with an Illinois woman passing the virus to her husband after traveling in China.

Other than that case, there has been no human-to-human transmission in the U.S. Rather, the other cases all involved people who had travelled overseas.

“If you have plans to travel, you might want to check the CDC Travel Advisory page, to see if there are any issues, not just with Coronavirus, but with any kind of outbreaks,” Madson recommended.

According to a press release from the Health Department, the outbreak of respiratory illness has spread in China and 26 other countries since December. The outbreak is caused by a novel Coronavirus causing mild respiratory symptoms. The coronavirus has the potential to cause severe illness and pneumonia in some, including those who are elderly, immune compromised and young children, according to the release.

Symptoms of the Coronavirus range from mild illness (similar to a common cold) to severe pneumonia. Symptoms include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Coronavirus is spread very similarly to influenza and other respiratory pathogens, via respiratory droplets produced from an infected person’s cough or sneeze.

The CDC recommends the following to help prevent infection and the spread of disease:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcoholic based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

If traveling, the CDC recommends avoiding all non-essential travel to China. On arrival to the United States, travelers from China may be asked questions to determine if they need to undergo health screening. Travelers with signs and symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) will have an additional health assessment.