What is Novel Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually only cause mild respiratory disease, like the common cold. Two previously identified coronaviruses—Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have been more severe. This novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus. Current information suggests it is not as severe as MERS or SARS.
On January 30th, the World Health Organization declared Novel Coronavirus outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. At this time, it is has not reached epidemic or pandemic status.
What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus and how is it spread?
Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and general feeling of illness. Young people, senior citizens, and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems may be at increased risk of severe disease.
It is important to note there have been no positive cases identified where the infected person did not have contact with another already infected person. Currently, 2 human-to-human transmissions have occurred in the US, both between husband and wife. The one positive case in Washington was discharged from the hospital on February 3rd, 2020 and is continuing to be monitored at home.
Novel coronavirus is most commonly spread from infected persons to others through the air by coughing or sneezing; close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands and rarely via fecal contamination; and touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes before handwashing.
The Washington State Department of Health is currently partnering with the Centers for Disease Control, local health districts, and multiple public and private agencies within the state (including WSNA) to keep the public informed.
How is the threat from coronavirus being monitored?
A call center has been established to address questions from the public at 1-800-525-0127, press #.
The DOH has set up a separate webpage on their site specifically dedicated to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak. Currently, the state is tracking the following information at the state level. These numbers are updated daily:
- Number of positive (confirmed) cases
- Number of negative tests
- Persons Under Investigation Pending Results
A person under investigation is an ill person with possible Novel Coronavirus who is in the process of being tested.
- Total Tested
- Close contacts being monitored
A close contact is a person who has been within approximately 6 feet of a person with confirmed novel coronavirus for a prolonged period (more than 10 minutes) or has had direct contact with secretions from a person with confirmed novel coronavirus.
- Persons under Mandatory Quarantine.
Additionally, the website contains resources for Local Health Jurisdictions and Healthcare Providers, Information for School Nurses and Administrators, and workplace recommendations.
On January 31st, new federal measures were announced to control the spread of novel coronavirus. The Department of Homeland Security is working with the CDC and DOH to screen all passengers coming from China for fever and respiratory symptoms upon arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
- Passengers who are ill will be immediately isolated from others, evaluated by a CDC medical professional at the airport, and if needed, safely taken to a hospital for further evaluation. No travelers are under mandatory quarantine at this time.
- Passengers without symptoms of novel coronavirus infection who have been in Hubei Province in the last 14 days will be placed under quarantine with daily active monitoring by public health officials until their 15th day after leaving Hubei Province.
This number is anticipated to be low as transportation from Hubei was discontinued around 10 days ago.
Home quarantine is the first choice; if that is not possible the DOH has a safe facility ready to use that is away from other members of the public.
- Asymptomatic travelers returning from China who did not travel to the Hubei Province in the last 14 days will receive a Travel Health Alert Notice. These travelers can continue to their home destination provided they remain asymptomatic. The notice asks them to stay at home and monitor their health for the next 14 days with the help of public health officials.
What is WSNA doing to assist current efforts?
WSNA is taking part in the multi-agency public response established by the DOH. This has included webinars, phone conferences, and ongoing information sharing.
The Department of Health is considered the primary source for accurate, up-to-date information. Therefore, WSNA is sharing information from the DOH on the WSNA website and social media platforms. This information is reviewed daily and updated as needed. WSNA members with questions or concerns are encouraged to contact their local Unit Representatives, the Public Hotline at 1-800-525-0127 press #, and the WSNA and DOH websites.
What are the current recommendations to protect against novel coronavirus?
Current recommendations to reduce the risk and spread of novel coronavirus are the same as for any viral respiratory infection. These include:
- Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use and alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash hands.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
- Stay at home and away from others if feeling ill.
- Stay current on influenza and pneumonia vaccinations.
Masking in public in the absence of respiratory symptoms is not recommended or necessary at this time.
What additional resources are available?