CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – The 2019 Novel Coronavirus is rapidly evolving. As of Thursday morning, 565 people have died from the virus. Most of the deaths have been confined to one specific area of China. But with a handful of confirmed cases in the United States, health officials are increasing preparedness efforts.
Leaders at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said they have been closely following the outbreak and are in the process of increasing preparedness efforts, developing protocols for local health departments to triage suspected cases and rolling out monitoring guidance that is aligned with the public health infrastructure in West Virginia.
They said the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health has engaged public health partners by providing situation awareness, issuing a health alert to providers, and working with partners to develop and distribute resources needed to enhance preparedness efforts for potential or confirmed patients with 2019 Novel Coronavirus. A spokesperson for the agency said in the coming days and weeks the Bureau for Public Health will be working with public health partners so that hospitals are prepared for 2019-nCoV.
Dr. Sherri Young is the Executive Director and Health Officer at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. She said preparations are underway on the local level as well.
“Number one there is no imminent threat of coronavirus to our area or anyone in the United States at this time. They are using extraordinary measures to make sure that it doesn’t spread,” she said, reminding people to stay calm. The Kanawha Charleston Health Department is working with federal and state leaders as well as community partners to make sure everyone who is in contact with patients knows what to do and what questions to ask.
“The biggest differentiating factor we need to know is where have you been,” Young said. She explained that right now the only way to know for sure that someone has the Novel Coronavirus is a blood test. “All of the tests for this coronavirus are being fielded to the Centers for Disease Control. They are developing additional tests that may be able to turn around more rapidly and be more widely available,” she said. “But for right now all of those tests are being run at the Centers for Disease Control.”
Young said it can take up to 14 days for someone to show symptoms after they have been exposed.
“You will see that a lot of people in different areas including some in West Virginia are in voluntary quarantine,” Young said. “They don’t have symptoms but they know they traveled to that area so just out of an abundance of caution they’ve decided to stay away from the general public.”
She said right now there is no cure for this coronavirus. Doctors are only able to provide supportive care for the symptoms.
And while the 2019 Novel Coronavirus seems scary she said the flu is the biggest threat to people in our area right now.
“More people have died in the United States from the flu than worldwide from the coronavirus,” Young said, urging anyone who hasn’t already to go ahead and get their flu shot.
The Kanawha Charleston Health Department will host a free flu shot event this Saturday, February 8 for Kanawha County residents. It will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Health Department offices on Lee Street in Charleston, WV.