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Commission hears coronavirus update
Although not found locally, officials urge caution
coronavirus commission pic
Barton County Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer, center, and commissioners Don Davis and Jennifer Schartz listen to a update on the coronavirus and flu from Health Director Shelly Schneider during Monday morning’s commission meeting.

KDHE finds possible coronavirus case in Douglas County


LAWRENCE – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, in conjunction with its community health partners, are investigating a potential case of the 2019 novel coronavirus in a Douglas County Kansas resident at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Kansas Health Secretary Lee Norman said. Specimens will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing today and KDHE expects to receive results later this week.

The patient is not severely ill and is currently in isolation at a hospital as a precaution. The patient returned to the U.S. within the last two weeks after traveling from Wuhan City, China, where an outbreak of 2019-nCoV has been underway since December 2019. The patient became symptomatic in recent days and sought healthcare Monday.

“While we have not confirmed this as a case of the 2019 novel coronavirus, we believe it is important to keep the public informed and educated on this new virus,” Norman said. “Please know that there are a number of details we are unable to share to keep this individual’s privacy.”

KDHE is working with the CDC, LMH Health and the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to identify and contact all of those who may have come into contact with the individual so health officials can begin monitoring them for fever and respiratory symptoms, should this be a confirmed case, Norman said.

The 2019 novel coronavirus spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny

nose and difficulty breathing. Those considered at risk for contracting the virus are individuals with travel to Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, or individuals in close contact with a person infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus.

We are also advising residents that flu and other respiratory diseases are circulating in our state and are recommending everyone get a flu shot and follow basic prevention guidelines.

Although the confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus have not reared their ugly head in Barton County, or even in Kansas, Health Director Shelly Schneider said we must be vigilant and prepared.

“There have been five confirmed cases in the United States,” the closest to us being on the U.S.-Canadian border, she said, addressing the County Commission Monday morning. “Now, it is coming over here from China.”

So far, it has killed 100-plus people in China. And, there have been over 4,500 cases confirmed globally in 12 nations.

The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control is tracking the spread of this flu-like respiratory virus, she said. It is also the only agency that can test for and offer confirmation of it.

Schneider said coronavirus is what is known as a “novel virus,” meaning it has changed to the point that currently available tests don’t detect it, and is one that has not been previously detected. “It has mutated to the point that our technology hasn’t kept up with it and that is scary.”

In the meantime, “it is highly communicable,” she said. And, it is airborne and spread human to human.

We are a mobile society, she said. Frequent travel could help spread the illness.

The four states with confirmed cases are Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington. But, there have been 110 suspected cases in the U.S., involving people in 26 states, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control.

Closer to home, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported that it, along with local health partners, are investigating a possible case in Douglas County.

“It’s like the flu, but more severe,” she said. And, like the flu, symptoms include fever, dry cough, extreme tiredness and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.

There is no vaccine, but routine hygiene like hand washing, coughing into your elbow, disinfecting surfaces and staying home when sick can help. All health care providers can do is provide relief for the symptoms, Schneider said.

A national prospective

As the outbreak of the coronavirus strain originating in Wuhan, China, continues, U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D., reminds Kansans that U.S. health officials remain on high alert and are fully prepared for any situation.

“With China quarantining more than 50 million citizens, the U.S. must closely monitor and guard its points of entry and returning citizens,” Marshall said. “As a physician, I understand the uncertainty and fear infectious disease outbreaks can have. I encourage Kansans to follow recommendations from their doctor and adhere to the CDC’s warning against travel to China.” 

This infectious disease outbreak is impacting the U.S. at home, he said .”That’s why we must respond with urgency in coordination with other nations around the world.”

As this flu and cold season continues, it may at first be hard to differentiate the coronavirus from other common viruses, but the primary differences are the additional symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath. Handwashing, disinfecting surfaces, and other general public health best practices are recommended.

“As we continue to work through this outbreak, my office will stay in constant communication with the CDC and State Department health care officials as we closely monitor this public health concern,” Marshall said.

Currently testing for the virus can only be done by the CDC, but officials are optimistic a commercially available test will be available in February, he said. This test will help countries further contain and monitor this virus. 

“If you are concerned at all about symptoms you are experiencing, please contact your primary physician immediately,” he said.

Flu making appearance in Barton County


The 2020 influenza season is making itself known in Barton County, Health Director Shelly Schneider told the County Commission Monday morning.

“We don’t always see it in our office,” she said. But, partner health care providers are seeing more of it.

Both flu types A and B are being found, she said. But, for the most part, the vaccine being given this season is working.

She also noted it is not too late to get vaccinated. Even now, it can make a difference.

Schneider reminds folks that the flu is purely a respiratory illness. Some people will say they have the stomach flu, but that is not influenza.

Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May. The highest number of people gets sick with the flu in December and January.

The vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone six months of age or older, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Being vaccinated against influenza is especially important for anyone at high risk of complications, including babies and young children, pregnant women, older persons and people with certain chronic conditions.

Getting vaccinated also protects people around you, KDHE reports.  

Depending on the severity of the influenza season, 5-20 percent of the population may get influenza each year, the KDHE notes. Symptoms of influenza include fever, dry cough, extreme tiredness and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.