Health officials in Piatt County are treating the potential threat of the coronavirus similar to a typical flu outbreak, with a few additions. One includes taking additional care with those who have recently returned from international travel, especially if they are showing any respiratory issues since the virus seems to have originated in China.
“We are asking visitors who have had international travel within the last 14 days to restricted countries, with signs and symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, and sore throat, or who have had contact with someone with or under investigation for COVID-19 to please plan your visit for a later date,” said Tiffany Kleven, the nursing director at the Piatt County Nursing Home.
Although there have been no diagnosed cases in downstate Illinois, Kirby Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Mark Fred said the facility is monitoring the outbreak in other locales through conference calls and webinars on a daily basis.
He asks that those who are reporting to the hospital and clinic in Monticello with respiratory symptoms to notify them in advance so precautions can be taken.
“We want to make sure that a patient makes us aware that they are on their way, and that we are able to meet them and provide them with a mask, and get them back for review, rather than have them wait in a waiting space with a bunch of other people for a long period of time,” said Fred, who is also the Monticello hospital’s chief information officer.
As of March 9, the flu outbreak, with the official name of COVID-19, had been diagnosed in 539 people nationwide and resulted in 22 deaths. None of those have been in Illinois, where seven cases in the Chicago area have been reported.
Piatt County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Holmes said an emergency exercise planned for a rare infectious disease called Tularemia will likely be changed to a practice on how to handle a coronavirus outbreak if it occurs locally.
“I believe we’re going to suggest changing it to the coronavirus, because we’ve had some meetings, and it seems to be spreading more than they thought,” he said.
One area of worry is how local health departments could be inundated if a vaccine is formulated for COVID-19. Holmes said drive-though clinics have been effective in other areas of the country.
Dave Remmert, the director of the DeWitt-Piatt Bi-County Health Department, notes that while preparation is necessary, panic is not, at least at this point.
“We want to use this as an opportunity to test our system, make sure everything is in place,” he said. “But the way the media has hyped it up, you get a lot of people who come down with anything related, they think they have the coronavirus. And that’s not a good thing.”
He and Fred say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled a good list of precautions everyone should take. They include the following:
–Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
–Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
–Stay home when you are sick.
–Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
–Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
–Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
–CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
–Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
–Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
–If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Additional information is available on the CDC website, cdc.gov.
Health officials say the flu outbreak originated in China, which has registered an estimated 100,000 cases of COVIC-19 infection and more than 4,000 deaths.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) last week voted for $8.3 billion in funding to help to fight the coronavirus. Additionally, Davis held a roundtable on Friday with health care professionals from across the district in Decatur.
“Ensuring our local health professionals have the information and resources they need to prevent and treat this illness is a top priority of mine,” said Davis. “This funding is critical to help prevent, treat, and develop vaccines for the coronavirus. I’m glad we could finally come together to pass this important funding package. I look forward to meeting with health professionals across the district on Friday to learn more about preparedness in Illinois and what else is needed to fight this.”
Highlights from the $8.3 billion funding package include:
–More than $4 billion to make diagnosis tests more broadly available, support treatments to ease the symptoms of those infected with the virus and invest in vaccine development and to procure vaccines when they are available. Funds are also made available for the Food and Drug Administration to protect the integrity of medical products manufactured overseas and identify and prevent potential shortages.
–$2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a robust response, including: Nearly $1 billion exclusively for state and local response efforts; and $300 million for CDC’s Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund to prevent, prepare for, and respond to diseases – keeping the nation prepared and positioned for any health threat.
–$20 million to administer disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by the virus.
–$1.25 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to protect Americans abroad and prevent the spread of the virus worldwide, including: $264 million to evacuate Americans and maintain consular operations overseas. $200 million for USAID’s Emergency Response Fund to prepare for and respond to emerging health threats – working to prevent the spread of illness and infection before it reaches U.S. soil.