By Chris Bavender
With the coronavirus – now identified as COVID-19 – in the news daily, the Hamilton County Health Dept. is taking steps to educate health care providers and the public. Its communicable disease plan has been updated with information about COVID-19 and outlines basic response actions for the department and recommendations for other agencies and the public.
“Staff are participating in weekly (Indiana State Dept. of Health) conference calls, and implementing recommendations from ISDH, CDC and the WHO,” Christian Walker, emergency preparedness coordinator for HCHD, stated in an email. “Additionally, the department’s public health preparedness coordinators have been monitoring multiple sources (ISDH, CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), etc.), and this information is being passed on to partner agencies and healthcare providers to ensure they are prepared to handle any cases which may present within the county.”
The virus emerged in China in December 2019 and has since spread to dozens of nations. The virus causes illness with symptoms similar to influenza, including fever, headache and difficulty breathing. However, influenza also includes a sore throat, stuffy nose and fatigue.
While the department’s efforts are focused on emergency medical services and health care providers, it’s also overhauling the entire county website and is in the process of adding additional communicable disease information to the health department page, including information on COVID-19. Video messages also have been sent via social media.
Walker stated that the department doesn’t report on specific cases, or specific diseases, until a certain threshold is reached as outlined by local, state and federal law. That’s done to help protect the identities of those affected.
“Hamilton County has a diverse population whose business and vacation travels take them all around the world,” Walker stated. “It is probable that at some point we will have a person, or persons, who have traveled to a country that is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.”
The most recent science indicates symptoms of COVID-19 may appear between two and 14 days. But Walker stated it is a “very new and fluid situation and it is possible that new information will emerge as the scientific community continues to study the virus.”
“If a person has not recently been to China or had close contact with someone who has recently traveled to China (both within 14 days) it would be highly unlikely that the ill person has been exposed to COVID-19,” Walker stated. “Whether the illness is flu or COVID-19 it is highly recommended the person seek treatment from their health care provider.”
Walker stated that the best way to protect against COVID-19 is with proper handwashing.