Clark County Public Health Monitoring 12 People For Potential Coronavirus

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Feb. 28, 2020 10:56 p.m.

Clark County Public Health is monitoring 12 people for potential coronavirus.

None of the 12 people have exhibited coronavirus symptoms and therefore have not been tested, but they're being watched due to recent travel activity.

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“These are people coming from mainland China,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health Officer said.

Whenever anyone enters the U.S. after traveling to China, they’re directed to the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Melnick said.

“They meet folks at the airport and get their information … and give it to state health departments,” he said.

Related: A Guide: How To Prepare Your Home For Coronavirus

Currently, Washington’s Department of Health is monitoring everyone who may have been exposed to the disease and asking them to stay quarantined in their homes for 14 days, the estimated incubation period for coronavirus.

“We’re not putting ankle bracelets on people,” Melnick said of the self-quarantined people, “but people have been cooperative … I don’t think any of them want to get other folks sick.”

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Melnick said none of the 12 people residing in Clark County came from the Hubei province, where the virus was first detected.

“If we had somebody from Hubei, that is a higher risk category,” he said. “We would be doing active surveillance on them and calling them daily. That would be a larger concern, a higher risk.”

There are 322 people under public health supervision in Washington, according to the state’s Department of Health. There has been one confirmed case of coronavirus so far, in Snohomish County. People with the virus are also being treated at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, which specializes in infectious diseases.

Earlier this week, the Oregon Health Authority said it was monitoring more than 70 people for the virus. There have not been any confirmed cases in Oregon yet.

Melnick said the preventative actions around coronavirus are similar to those Clark County Public Health took last year during a measles outbreak.

“If somebody develops symptoms, like someone who is under supervision or monitoring, we’re going to be, just like we did with measles, interviewing them — figuring out where they were when they might have been contagious, we’re going to find out who they might have exposed,” he said.

“Something positive is that this novel coronavirus is a lot less contagious than measles is,” Melnick said. “Measles has a reproductive index of about 12 to 18 — so when you have the measles and there’s a bunch of people around you who are susceptible, for example haven’t been immunized, 12 to 18 of them will get sick. With novel coronavirus, it’s about two to three will get sick.”

Melnick said the risk of getting the disease in Clark County is “really low,” and that people should be aware, but not panicking over coronavirus.

“We’re still in flu season, and the risk of influenza right now is a lot more significant than the risk from the novel coronavirus,” he said.

He said it's not too late for people to get a flu shot, and that people should continue to regularly wash their hands, especially after they sneeze or cough.

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