WEST JEFFERSON — There has been no record of reported cases of the Novel Coronavirus in North Carolina and Ashe County and the risk to the general public is low, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services. However, local healthcare providers such as AppHealthCare continue to closely monitor the rapidly evolving situation.
“The 2019 Novel Coronavirus is a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China,” said the Centers for Disease Control in a statement. “At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.”
According to the CDC’s website in their most recent report on Feb. 10, there have been 12 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in the U.S with 318 negative cases and 68 pending.
States with confirmed cases as depicted in a map by the CDC are Washington, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois and Massachusetts.
The North Carolina Division of Public Health’s Communicable Disease Branch will provide updates as needed regarding any significant developments in this response, including a positive case, according to a statement by the NCDHHS on their website.
The CDC has been preparing for 2019-nCoV cases in the United States for weeks, including alerting clinicians about how to detect, report and diagnose 2019-nCoV and prevent spread.
According to the CDC’s website, symptoms can include fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person by coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact including touching and shaking hands.
Regarding the current travel situation, the CDC released an updated statement which included their recommendation to avoid all nonessential travel to China on Feb. 4.
“In response to an outbreak of respiratory illness, Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport. Additional restrictions and cancellations of events may occur,” the statement reads.
The CDC also made it clear that the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, or the island of Taiwan are not affected by the travel advisories.
The US Department of State has also issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory asking people not to travel to China due to the outbreak of the virus and limited access to adequate medical care in the affected areas.
Jennifer Greene, Health Director at AppHealthCare, provided some insight about how the main healthcare provider of the High Country is preparing in the event that the virus affects the area.
“We have a good, connected health care community in Ashe County and one of the things we are really happy about is that we have a good connection with our healthcare partners,” Greene said.
Although it is a new strain of virus, which healthcare providers are continuing to learn more about, Greene said the same preventative measures for other respiratory illnesses apply. These include handwashing, covering mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing, avoiding touching eyes, noses and mouths with unwashed hands, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are frequently touched and avoiding close contact with those who are ill.
“If we had a case, someone suspected to have Novel Coronavirus in our area, we have very clear protocols we would follow: not only caring for the person, but also monitoring their symptoms and making sure they get care they need,” Greene said.
Greene also shared they are hopeful that through early detection and measures such as screenings and quarantines, this will help lessen the severity of the spreading of the virus in the U.S.
AppHealthCare will continue to post updates on their website www.apphealthcare.com as they become available.
There is also a general information hotline available which the public can use to call with any questions or concerns they will have at (866) 462-3821.