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People told to be ready for coronavirus to come to Montana


March 11, 2020

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Shelves of toilet paper run low Tuesday even after stocking all the store has currently Tuesday at Gary & Leo's Fresh Foods in Havre. Even though store filled the shelves three times Monday and received a shipment of it that night toilet paper already was running low Tuesday afternoon in an apparent local run due to the coronavirus scare. Officials are puzzled by the worldwide run on toilet paper, which has no special protection for the virus and is not generally considered a staple for emergencies.

With the confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus 19 growing around the world including in the United States, Montana officials are preparing for its appearance here.

As of Tuesday, no coronavirus, or COVID-19, cases have been reported in the state of Montana, but Hill County Health Director Kim Larson said people should be taking the same precautions they take for any other respiratory illness, such as influenza.

Those recommendations include:

• Avoid contact with sick people when possible.

• Cover cough and sneezes with the crook of the elbow or a tissue.

• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, and wash hands frequently.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Larson said people should avoid going out if they think they have COVID 19.

"Call ahead to a health care professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread," she said.

She said people should tell their health care professional about their recent travel or contact. People's health care professionals will work with Hill County Health Department to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19.

"If you think you have COVID-19, call your health care provider and talk to them before going to the hospital or clinic," Larson said.

The most important step employers can take is encouraging employees to stay home when sick, she added.

More information can be found at at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus pages at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus , with the business response page at http://bit.ly/2Q6JsHH .

Suspected symptoms may appear two to 14 days  after exposure, Larson said, and typically are fever, cough and shortness of breath. 

"We are constantly in contact with the state and federal partners to stay current on the situation," she said. "We have held a tabletop exercise with local partners. Local public health is constantly keeping track of what illnesses, viruses are going around the community, we are continuing to do this and we have plans in place to enact in response to the emersion of illnesses in our community."

The Department of Health and Human Services website coronavirus page at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt is updated daily.

For more information, people can contact the Hill County Health Department at 400-2415.


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