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Coronavirus alerts not real
Watch out for fake outbreak information

There are bogus text messages circulating claiming there has been a confirmed case of the deadly novel coronavirus in Ellis County and Barton County.

“These are absolutely not true,” said Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider, who herself received one of the alerts. As of late Friday afternoon, there is only a single suspected case in Kansas, and that is in Lawrence, but it has not been confirmed.

“You have to be cautious of the sites you go to get your information,” she said. 

The link was sent to her noting the case in Hays. But, when she had the Barton County Information Technology Department started to look into it, the link changed to bite the case was in Barton County.

Schneider contacted the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to inquire about the message’s validity. She was assured there was no local coronavirus activity.

“Karen and I are in constant contact with KDHE,” Schneider said her and Health Department nurse Karen Winkelman. “If we get a case, we will do everything in our power to let the public know as fast as we can.”

Nationally and internationally

The first human-to-human transmission of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus has occurred in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The respiratory virus was spread from a woman who had recently traveled in China to her husband when she returned to Chicago, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said at a press briefing.

The Trump administration Friday declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak and said certain American citizens returning from China would be quarantined for two weeks.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said Friday that foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the prior 14 days will be denied entry into the U.S.

The case reported Thursday is the sixth confirmed instance of the new coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, in the U.S. However, the CDC notes there are 121 pending cases.

In addition to the Illinois cases, two have been confirmed in California, one in Arizona and one in Washington state. Worldwide, the Wuhan coronavirus has spread to at least 20 countries since it was identified last month, the CDC reports.

Globally, there are more than 7,800 confirmed cases of infection with the virus in 26 countries, but mostly in China where it originated in December. It has killed 231 people, all in China. 

Person-to-person spread had already been observed in other countries.

In the meantime

The CDC is tracking the spread of this respiratory virus, Schneider 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. Highly communicable, it is airborne and spread human to human.

Schneider said the virus is flu-like, but worse. 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.