MOREHEAD CITY — While there have been no cases of the coronavirus reported in North Carolina, county health officials are taking precautions to insure the health and safety of residents.
“We are following N.C. Division of Public Health guidance on how to evaluate patients who may be present in our facility who are complaining of fever/lower respiratory illness and a recent travel history to Wuhan City, China or someone who has a close contact to a laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV patient,” County Health Department Director Stephanie Cannon said Tuesday in an email. “We have shared that guidance with the medical community as well.”
Carteret Health Care Public Information Officer Michelle Lee said Wednesday hospital staff are also preparing in the event a coronavirus case is found in the county.
“I know we are closely monitoring information with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and state health departments,” she said. “The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has shared evaluation criteria and has designated infection control measures should a case be suspected.”
The CDC has been monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus named 2019-nCoV. The outbreak first started in Wuhan, China, but cases have been identified in a growing number of other international locations, including the U.S., according to the CDC website.
As of Wednesday, five confirmed cases have been reported in the U.S., though none of those are in North Carolina. Sixty-eight additional people tested in the U.S. were negative, with 92 more test results pending, according to the CDC.
In China, the new virus has sickened nearly 8,000 people and as of Thursday has killed 170, according to The Associated Press. China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further.
A plane evacuating 195 Americans from Wuhan landed Wednesday at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., after everyone aboard passed a health screening test in Anchorage, Ala., where the aircraft had stopped to refuel, The Associated Press reported.
The passengers will undergo additional screenings in California and be placed in temporary housing. Officials have not said how long they will stay there.
In addition to the U.S., countries including Japan and South Korea have also evacuated people from China.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and, in more severe cases, shortness of breath or pneumonia.
As for how residents can assist health officials in preventing an outbreak of the virus, the CDC recommends no nonessential travel to China.
Locally, County Health Department Nursing Director Kim Davis said residents should continue practicing the same precautions that are used to prevent the spread of the flu and other viral infections.
“People should wash their hands regularly. They should cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze,” Ms. Davis said. “We recommend they cough or sneeze into their elbow because that is less likely to spread.”
She added it’s best to avoid touching your face and not ingest food until washing your hands. Plus, she recommended using hygiene wipes to clean computer keyboards and cell phones.
“Cell phones are something we use constantly but people don’t normally think about it,” she said.
Ms. Davis said while she’s hopeful no cases will make their way to North Carolina or Carteret County, she encourages residents to be vigilant in good hygiene practices.
“Everyone should be on high alert because people travel all across the globe,” Ms. Davis said.
Those wanting more information about the coronavirus can visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.