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CDC gives update on coronavirus


February 13, 2020

A National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a press conference Wednesday giving an update on the novel coronavirus first detected in China.

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier said an American citizen died due to the coronavirus over the weekend, the first American and also the first outside of China to die from the virus

CNN reported this morning that more than 1,300 people in China have died from the virus.

“In China, they are taking aggressive measures just as we are in the United States,” she said. “There has been one new confirmed novel coronavirus infection detected in the United States. The individual who returned from Wuhan and was quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (in San Diego, Calif.).”

Hill County Health Department director Kim Larson said the department is staying in close contact with the CDC as well as Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, with weekly calls on what the situation is regarding the novel coronavirus.

“Locally, I would encourage our community members to be following our Facebook page as well as Blaine County Health Department’s Facebook page because we will be posting updates when we get them, and also to keep checking the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services website if they have questions,” Larson said. 

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services website is https://dphhs.mt.gov .

Hill County Health Department’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/hillcountyhealth, and Blaine County’s is https://www.facebook.com/blainecountyhealthdepartment .

She said as of right now, the biggest threat for illness in the Hill County area is seasonal influenza.

Messonnier said the person with the new confirmed case was on one of the last State Department flights out of Wuhan, China, and is hospitalized with a mild illness.

“This brings the total number of confirmed positives in the United States to 13,” she said. 

Last Thursday, on one of the planes from Wuhan which landed in Miramar a few people were sick and transported to a local hospital for further evaluation, she said, adding that the people were placed in isolation and samples were taken for testing.

She said when running laboratory diagnostics for any disease, anywhere in the world, the ability to match the individual to the specimen is key and is part of the normal procedures that are put into place to ensure the matching is done correctly.

“In this situation, with this patient it didn’t work correctly and the patient was misidentified initially as negative. …The CDC tested the sample, the positive result was conveyed quickly to the local public health and CDC teams,”  Messonnier said. “The mishap was unfortunate, but we have corrected this from happening again in the future by adding additional quality control.” 

During this time, appropriate infection control precautions were taken around everyone, including around this patient, who is doing well, she said.

Messonnier also provided an update on the CDC’s diagnostic test kit.

“This is a dynamic rapidly evolving situation and our response continues to be based on the latest science,” she said. “We continue to be flexible to meet the public health challenges that the virus presents and clearly a success is the CDC’s rapid development of a diagnostic and rapid deployment to the states, which is clearly important to bring the testing closer to the patients to avoid delays that has been inherent in sending samples to CDC.”

She said when states receive the diagnostic test kit, a procedure for quality control is used in the state’s own laboratories.

But some states have identified inconclusive laboratory results, she said, adding that the CDC is working closely with those states to correct the issues.

“Speed is important, but equally more important in this situation is making sure the lab results are correct,” she said. “During a response like this we know things may not go as smoothly as we’d like, we have multiple levels of quality control to detect issues just like this one, we are looking into all of these issues to understand what went wrong and prevent these same things from happening in the future.”

Messonnier said airport screening began in mid-January. CDC and it’s partners have screened more than 30,000 passengers from China. 

She said that, with restrictions on travel, the CDC is seeing fewer and fewer travelers from China, especially from Kobe Province.

Passengers who are being funneled through 11 airports, most from mainland China, outside of Hubei, have shown no symptoms and not have assessed as high risk, she said, adding that passengers who pass the screening can continue on to their final destination where then they self-monitor their health for 14 days in cooperation with their state and local health departments. 

She said the CDC is asking those people to limit their activities and stay home during the 14 days period.

“Our goal is to be as least restrictive as possible while ensuring the safety and health of all Americans,” she said. “Most of the U.S. cases were found before the travel restrictions were put in place among travelers who returned from Wuhan and later sought medical care for their illness. We are continually reassessing our recommendations around quarantine and self-monitoring and will continue work with state and local public health departments to refine and improve this process.”

She said the goal with the measures the CDC has taken to date is to slow the introduction and impact of this disease in the United States, but she thinks it is likely the spread of the virus will continue in the US and other countries.

“This will trigger a change in our response strategy. This will require the effort of all levels of government, the public health system and our communities as we face these challenges together,” Messonnier said. “We are focusing now on preparing in other areas including development of guidance for our health practitioners and planning for an increased demand on our health care system. One important aspect of this is taking steps to make sure there are enough supplies, appropriate guidance to prevent the spread of the disease, especially among health care personnel caring for patients.” 

CDC talks regularly with health care industry partners as well as personal protective equipment manufacturers and distributors to assess availability, she said, adding that at this time some partners are reporting higher than usual demands for select respirators and face masks.

She said the CDC does not recommend the use of face masks for the general public as yet.

“This virus is not spreading in the community,” she said. “If you are sick or a patient under investigation and not hospitalized, CDC recommends wearing a face mask when being around other people, and before entering a health care providers’ office, but when you are alone in your home you do not need to wear a mask.”

People who are in close contact with someone with novel coronavirus, for example household contact and caregivers, and people suspected to be with the virus should wear a face mask if they are in the same room as the patient and that patient is not able to wear a face mask, she said.

She added that health care personnel should wear personal protective equipment including  respirators when caring for confirmed or possible coronavirus patients because they are in direct contact with these patients, which increases risk of exposure.

“We will continue to work with our public health partners around the clock to address this public health threat,” Messonnier said. “Some good news this week is that (Tuesday) the first group of 195 people who returned from Wuhan on a state department’s flight completed their 14 days quarantine; none of those people have this new virus and all left (the base) successfully and happily returned a long their  way to families and communities.”

It is important that people understand that these people released from quarantine pose no health threat to the surrounding community or the community they return to, she said.

She said CDC is also working in collaboration with Japanese health authorities to ensure precautions are being taken to prevent the disease on a Diamond Princess cruise ship as well as making sure the Americans on the cruise ship are safe.

“We recognize the continued uncertainty of the current situation and as always CDC public health experts strive to make the best recommendations based on the most up-to-date data,” Messonnier said.


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