First and foremost, local health officials want residents to know there are no cases of novel coronavirus in the county.
“No patient at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka has presented with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV) that has been in the news,” St. Joseph Health Humboldt County said in a statement Monday night. “Furthermore, it is absolutely safe to seek care in our emergency department and any rumors to the contrary are false.”
In fact, health officials stress, it’s unlikely at this point local residents will come in contact with the virus.
The virus, which sickened tens of thousands and is blamed for more than 400 deaths in China after originating in Wuhan, has reached California. As of Tuesday, there were six reported cases in California and 11 in the United States.
“It’s certainly the case that flu is much easier to catch,” said Hava Phillips, the supervising public health nurse in charge of the communicable disease unit for DHHS.
Phillips recommended those who have not received the flu vaccine this year to obtain it. It is available through many local pharmacies as well as the county’s clinic in Eureka.
The state Department of Public Health is monitoring the spread of the virus.
“The novel coronavirus is a serious public health concern, however the risk to the general public in California remains low,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, the state’s highest ranking health official. “We have had only one case of person-to-person transmission here and it was from a traveler to China to a spouse. Both are in stable condition.”
The World Health Organization declared a public health emergency last week as did the United States.
Here’s what we know about the new coronavirus:
What is the novel coronavirus?
There are many types of coronavirus. The new version is similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which sickened thousands in the early 2000s.
How is it transmitted?
The disease is believed to be transmitted much like the flu, said Phillips. It can be transmitted in a sneeze or a cough if an infected person is within 3 to 6 feet of a health individual.
Is there a vaccine?
No, not yet. The best way to prevent it is not to be exposed to it.
What are some safety precautions?
The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, or after blowing one’s nose or coughing.
The CDC also recommends those who are ill should stay home; clean and disinfect frequently touched items; and avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.