Local health agencies prepare for coronavirus

What would happen if coronavirus hit the Rogue Valley? Local agencies say they are prepared.

Posted: Feb 12, 2020 7:05 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- The CDC is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in Asia. Yesterday, World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the coronavirus outbreak, it’s called “COVID-19”.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused but a new strand of coronavirus, which was identified in Wuhan, China. Right now, there are no confirmed cases in Oregon.

According to the CDC, there have been 45,000 confirmed to be infected with COVID-19. Over 4,000 of those people have recovered from the virus and 1,100 people have died.

There has been a lot of misinformation and even conspiracy theories circling social media, one misconception is that “coronavirus” is the next plague but according to statistics from this year’s flu season, the flu is more deadly. At least 22 million people have been diagnosed with the flu and 12,000 people have died this flu season.

Nevertheless, local health departments and local hospitals say they are prepared at all times for communicable diseases, such as COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is really working a lot of like a lot of our other communicable diseases,” said Tonya Phillips, Health Promotion Manager for Jackson County Public Health, “It’s important to understand in the United States right now we don’t have any outbreaks, therefore the risk to the average American is very low.”

If there was a case confirmed in our area the CDC has a set of guidelines that are passed down to state departments and local departments that include protocols that our local health departments and hospitals will follow.

“CDC, when it comes to the United States, they are the mothership of public health so a lot of our guidance does come from CDC,” said Phillips, “that guidance then goes to Oregon health Authority and they put that guidance in a place for all of the counties that do communicable disease investigation.”

At Asante, those protocols include a set of questions for patients to answer and an action plan that is in place at all times.

“The screening questions ask if you travel to China with in the last 14 days or if you’ve been around somebody that’s travel to China in the last 14 days,” said Julie Zetterquist, Infection Prevention Manager at Asante, “We’ve established a location at each one of our facilities where that patient would be relocated right away. For example, if they were coming through the emergency department the triage nurses would meet them at the front desk, they would put a mask on the patient to contain any droplets. The staff themselves know the precautions to take. That patient would be immediately roomed in a room that has airflow precautions attached to it.”

Zetterquist echoed Phillips in saying that a situation involving coronavirus wouldn’t be much different than a response to tuberculosis.

“We already do a lot of this stuff on a normal daily basis so really it’s like if we had a measles outbreak, we would be doing very similar stuff,” said Phillips, “coronavirus isn’t too different, other than the fact that it’s new and we’re continuing to learn about it.”

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