North Carolina now has a task force dedicated to help residents say safe and informed about COVID 19 – the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 1,000 in China. BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.
The new Novel Coronavirus Task Force will be co-chaired by the state health and emergency management directors and will help coordinate activities between local, state and federal agencies – everything from prevention to response. So far, no cases have been reported here. State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore says while monitoring is underway across the state, the risk to North Carolina remains low.
“And you're much more likely to be exposed to other respiratory viruses this time of year, including influenza,” says Moore.
Buncombe County Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore notes that the core cold and flu prevention strategies also apply to the coronavirus.
“Washing your hands and covering your cough and staying home when you're sick - those same strategies are going to be at play for pretty much every situation.”
State health officials have created a web page and hotline ( 1-866-462-3821) to answer questions from the public. I’m Helen Chickering BPR News.
More from the NC Department of Health and Human Services:
What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
2019 Novel Coronavirus is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, China. Below is information about the virus and North Carolina’s response. A fact sheet is available for the public and a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is available.
The latest information about the virus can be found on the CDC’s website.
According to the CDC, this virus likely emerged from an animal source but now seems to be spreading from person-to-person. Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
- The air by coughing and sneezing
- Close personal contact, including touching and shaking hands
- Touching your nose, mouth or eyes before washing your hands.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms are similar to the flu and typically cause mild to moderate respiratory illness. Common symptoms include cough, fever and shortness of breath.
What should I do if I traveled to Wuhan and feel sick?
Persons who are experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath and have visited Wuhan or had close contact with someone who is suspected to be infected with the novel coronavirus in the past 14 days should seek immediate medical attention.
- Before you go to the doctor’s office, emergency room or urgent care, call ahead and tell them your symptoms and recent travel history.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Do not travel while sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Are there any cases in North Carolina?
Currently, there are no confirmed cases in North Carolina at this time. 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.
How are the CDC and the NC Division of Public Health working together?
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. The CDC has also provided guidance for travelers.
The North Carolina Division of Public Health’s Communicable Disease Branch is taking proactive steps to be prepared for potential cases in North Carolina, including following the latest CDC recommendations related to surveillance, evaluation and response. The Division of Public Health will also be working with local health departments and hospitals statewide to provide updates on surveillance and response plans.
What is my risk?
While the CDC considers 2019-nCoV to be a very serious public health threat, the current immediate health risk to the general American public is considered low at this time. Nevertheless, CDC is taking proactive preparedness precautions.
Where can I find the latest travel recommendations?
The U.S. Department of State provides information to help travelers assess for themselves the risks of international travel. Travel advisories are available online. On Jan. 31, the Department of State raised its travel advisory to a level 4 and is recommending no travel to China. Please note that conditions can change rapidly in a country at any time.
How can you protect yourself?
The steps to preventing coronavirus transmission are similar to the steps to preventing other respiratory illnesses, like the flu. These include:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each time.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
The actions listed above will also protect people against influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory infections that are common in North Carolina and the U.S. this time of year.
Can I get tested for 2019-nCoV?
Testing for the 2019-nCoV is not available through commercial laboratories. At this time, diagnostic testing for 2019-nCoV is only being conducted at the CDC. State and local health departments are working with the CDC to arrange coronavirus testing for people who meet the CDC risk assessment criteria for testing.
What is the treatment for 2019-nCoV?
There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own. However, there are some things you can do to relieve your symptoms, including:
- Taking pain and fever medications (caution: do not give aspirin to children)
- Using a humidifier or taking a hot shower to ease a sore throat and cough
- Drinking plenty of liquids and stay home and rest.
Who can I contact for questions?
The North Carolina Division of Public Health has established a call line at 1-866-462-3821 to address general questions about coronavirus from the public. In the event of an emergency, please call 9-1-1.