On January 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced the first U.S. case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in a resident of Snohomish County.
Outbreaks of new diseases among people are always a public health concern. Because this is a new virus, there is still a lot to be learned. But our public health system has faced similar challenges before – with SARS and MERS – and we know it’s crucial to be proactive and prepared.
Here’s what you need to know about how we’re responding locally:
There are no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in Whatcom County, and the risk of infection to the public in Whatcom County is low.
We don’t yet know how easily 2019-nCoV spreads, and it’s important to know this to better understand the risk of 2019-nCoV. But other coronaviruses that infect humans spread from a person who is sick primarily through close personal contact.
- This most often happens through droplets produced when the infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu or colds spread.
- Close contact can also include touching or shaking hands, touching objects with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. This can happen when you live with, care for, or share a room with someone who is sick with novel coronavirus.
Disease investigators from DOH, Snohomish Health District, and Public Health – Seattle King County have identified a small number of people who had close personal contact with the Snohomish County resident who is sick.
They have been in contact with those individuals and are checking in with them daily to determine if they have symptoms that should be checked by a health care provider.
Based on current information, the risk of infection with 2019-nCoV in the United States is very low.
- People are considered to be at risk if:
- they have recently traveled to the Wuhan region, or
- they have been a very close contact of someone who is currently being evaluated for 2019-nCoV infection.
- At this time, people who have not traveled to the Wuhan area in China or who are not a close contact of a confirmed or possible case are not considered to be at risk of infection.
- This is a rapidly evolving situation. As we learn more about the novel coronavirus outbreak, the risk factors could change. We will provide updated information as it becomes available.
We prepare for and train to respond to public health threats just like this one.
We work closely with the CDC, DOH, our partners in other local health departments, and our local health care providers so that we can identify and respond to any infections as quickly as possible.
- We’ve issued advisories to Whatcom County health care providers with guidance on how to identify and evaluate people at risk for this new infection.
- We’ve increased our disease surveillance efforts and are prepared for a rapid response should a confirmed case be identified.
- We have strong connections with the clinical health care system so that we can respond rapidly to any instance of disease that poses a risk to the public – whether that’s measles, pertussis, or a new disease like 2019-nCoV.
- This is an emerging disease, and like our public health partners across the state, we will follow the guidelines set by the CDC to investigate any suspected cases of 2019-nCoV in Whatcom County.
The Washington State Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public.
If you have questions about what is happening in Washington state, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
Have more questions? Read our Novel Coronavirus FAQs, or check out the resources below.
Resources for Additional Information