MEDIA — Delaware County's most senior medical official issued recommendations pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which has killed more than 100 people and sickened thousands in China.
Only five cases have been confirmed in the United States, with none in Delaware County or in Pennsylvania. However, Dr. George Avetian, Delaware County's senior medical adviser, released the recommendations offered from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control with regards to preventative and treatment measures.
Representatives from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health are working closely with the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania departments of health, as well as the CDC. Delaware County does not have a health department.
The Philadelphia Health Department is investigating a possible case of coronavirus after a foreign exchange student was admitted to a local hospital with coronavirus symptoms. The student had recently traveled through Wuhan City, China, where the illness initially began to spread. Again, no cases have yet been confirmed anywhere in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, Avetian posted on his Facebook page that 110 individuals from 26 states in the United States are being investigated to determine whether they have coronavirus. Of those, 32 have tested negative, five have tested positive and the remainder are pending.
He explained that symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. "This novel coronavirus has the potential to cause severe disease and death," he said. "Available information suggests that older adults and people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems may be at increased risk of severe disease."
In his recommendations to county residents, Avetian advised individuals wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; and avoid contact with sick people to reduce risk of infection.
To protect others, the physician said if someone is exhibiting cold-like symptoms, they should stay home while they are sick; avoid close contact with others; cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, then throw it in the trash and wash their hands; and clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
In addition, he noted, there are no specific treatments for the illnesses caused by human coronvirus and most people will recover on their own. However, some remedies may ease the effects including taking pain and fever medication, although children should not be given aspirin; use of a room humidifier or taking a hot shower to ease a sore throat or cough; and drinking plenty of liquids and rest.
If anyone is concerned about their symptoms, Avetian recommends immediately consulting their health care provider.
On Jan. 22, the county official reported that a male resident in his 30s in Washington state's Snohomish County became the first case in the United States infected with the Novel Coronavirus as reported by the CDC. He had traveled to Wuhan, where the outbreak began and has since spread to Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen in China and to Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Most coronaviruses infect animals not people. However, the situation is still being monitored. Right now, the CDC identifies the health risk of 2019-nCoV to the general American public as low.
"We're still learning about an emerging virus in the corona family of viruses," Avetian explained. "Right now, the most important thing is to be vigilant. The CDC and the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) are doing the proper screening at the airports with the people coming in from China. We're taking a cautious approach."
Passengers flying from Wuhan to the United States will be subject to enhanced screenings in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco and will be rerouted to those airports as needed.
According to the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, Coronavirus is a family of viruses that include the common cold and can cause respiratory illness like the flood. Common versions of it cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness and transmission occurs through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing and close contact.
Symptoms, they said, include fever, cough and trouble breathing and can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
Their officials said it is not spread through simple airborne transmission.
More information on Coronavirus can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html.