While no cases of the new coronavirus have been reported in Wyoming to date, local health officials are monitoring the situation — and encouraging residents to follow general cold and flu …
While no cases of the new coronavirus have been reported in Wyoming to date, local health officials are monitoring the situation — and encouraging residents to follow general cold and flu season precautions. Those include washing hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes and keeping a distance from other people when sick.
“A lot of these basic rules are just that — they’re basic, no matter what the disease,” Park County Public Health Nurse Manager Bill Crampton said Thursday. “So we hope that people will listen and make sure they try to take care of themselves as much as possible.”
Tens of thousands of people in China have reportedly been infected with the novel virus, formally called COVID-19. As of Monday, 15 cases have been confirmed in seven U.S. states; they’ve generally been people who traveled to China’s Wuhan province — where the virus is believed to have originated — and people who came into close contact with those travelers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
A person in Bozeman, Montana, who became sick after traveling to China was placed in isolation early last week as a precaution, which drew regional headlines and concern. However, CDC test results — announced Friday by the Gallatin County Health Department — indicated that the person’s illness was not actually related to COVID-19.
The World Health Organization says the virus can cause a fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat that’s similar to a cold or the flu, but symptoms can be more severe and, “more rarely,” fatal. Across the globe, more than 1,700 deaths had been attributed to COVID-19 as of Monday. However, CDC officials say that “at this time, the virus is not currently spreading in the community in the United States.”
The federal government has instituted travel restrictions to limit the disease’s spread, among other precautions. Medical providers across the country — including in Park County, Crampton said — are asking additional screening questions to identify new cases as early as possible.
Crampton said local health officials are not expecting this new coronavirus to spread locally and, for now, are simply monitoring and tracking cases around the world.
But local officials do have plans already on hand for an outbreak of disease. As word of the new coronavirus first began hitting the news, Park County Homeland Security Director Jack Tatum happened to be wrapping up an exercise that involved coming up with ways to limit the spread of a hypothetical pandemic flu. For instance, Tatum said the county has been talking about ways to ensure it’s adequately staffed in the event of an outbreak.
“... if people in the clerk’s office or people in the assessor’s office or whatever [department] started getting sick, or people in the community started getting sick, what’s the minimum number of staff you can get by with so that other folks can stay home and kind of avoid that interaction?” he said of one discussion.
If COVID-19 was to begin spreading in Park County, Crampton said this area has some benefits.
“We’re out in the countryside so we’re kind of self-isolated, which is always a good thing, and we basically are going to have to adhere to, ‘If you’re sick, stay home,’” he said. “I don’t ever see us going into full quarantine mode, because I don’t have any way to enforce it.”
Crampton spoke briefly about the coronavirus during a regularly scheduled meeting of the Park County Local Emergency Planning Committee on Wednesday. The committee consists of local elected officials, representatives from health organizations, law enforcement, transportation personnel and other first responders and community groups that help make precautionary emergency plans.
More information about COVID-19 is available on the CDC site at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ or by calling an informational phone line set up by Park County Public Health at 307-754-1870; the line includes pre-recorded questions and answers about the virus.