Health department alert to coronavirus spread


As the novel coronavirus continues to claim lives and make international headlines, local health officials are remaining alert to the spreading respiratory illness.

A case of the virus has not been confirmed in Indiana. But if it were to find its way to Dubois County, health department leadership believes it would be ready to fight back.

“The Dubois County Health Department, we are working closely with our hospitals and local labs and health care professionals when it comes to our procedures and preparing ourselves if there were a person under investigation,” said Jo Ann Spaulding, the department’s administrative director.

Right now, no persons are under investigation in Dubois County, but “we are taking every step possible to identify illness and ensure that our community stays healthy,” reads a department press release distributed Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the risk of widespread transmission of disease in the United States is currently low. Most individuals being evaluated for this illness in the country are testing negative, and there are no known reports at the local level that have required investigation.

“The risk of contracting the flu is much greater than any risk from the 2019 novel coronavirus in our county, but we are taking every step possible to ensure that our community stays healthy,” Spaulding said in the press release.

If a person is found to have recently traveled to China in accordance with the guidance established by the CDC, the Dubois County Health Department would monitor the traveler for 14 days for symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Spaulding explained that residents have contacted the department and asked if the regular flu vaccine will protect against the coronavirus. The answer is no. Currently, a vaccine for the new affliction does not exist. Because the spreading illness is new, medical professionals are learning more each day about the transmission patterns and incubation periods.

Spaulding also said that readers should not worry about items shipped from China, because the live virus was found to only have a lifespan of about a couple of hours.

Per CNN, the coronavirus killed 97 people in China on Sunday. A total of 910 people have died from it globally since the outbreak began, according to authorities, and more than 40,000 people have been infected.

Twelve positive cases have been identified in the U.S., and the results of 68 more people under investigation are pending. People who have traveled to or from China since December could have been exposed to the virus.

“The most important things to remember are if you have traveled to China and feel sick, stay home and call your doctor, tell them of your symptoms and travel and you will receive instructions,” the press release reads. “Those that are healthy, use best practices to protect your self from any respiratory illness. Something as simple as washing your hands, staying home when sick, disinfecting surfaces, and getting your regular vaccinations are all ways we can stay healthy together as a community.”

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