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Officials prepare for coronavirus
No COVID-19 cases reported in Kansas

From local health-care providers to the U.S. House of Representatives, officials across the country spent this past week discussing how to prepare for a potential outbreak of Coronavirus in the United States. While preparation at every level is vital — and officials need to prepare for the worst-case scenario – that isn’t cause for panic. The best response for now is to focus on healthy habits that have been suggested for years:

• Wash your hands regularly

• Cover your mouth when you cough

• Stay at home if you are ill

Local officials add one more thing to the list:

• Get an annual flu vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which has now been detected in 50 locations internationally, including cases in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19).

As of Friday morning, there were zero persons in Kansas under investigation for possibly having COVID-19, Barton County Health Department Director Shelly Schneider said as local officials met to discuss emergency preparedness. “There are no (known) cases in Kansas.”

People who exhibit symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath and who have recently traveled overseas or been in close contact with someone who might have the virus should share that information immediately if they call 911 or go to see a doctor or visit an emergency room. That way, health-care providers can get a mask on the patient and take safety precautions in case the person has the potential of having the virus.

CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. 

The public should be aware but not overreact, said Barton County Emergency Preparedness Director Amy Miller. For now, influenza is far more common in Kansas than COVID-19 — with zero known cases of the latter — but about half of the population hasn’t been vaccinated for the flu.

Unfounded worries

Schneider said questions her office has fielded show people are paying attention, but not necessarily getting good information.

“I had a phone call Thursday asking, ‘Are we going to impose quarantines?’” While the worst-case-scenario preparation addressed that very question – how to isolate patients if Barton County sees two or more cases at one hospital – that’s not really an issue for a region where few if any people have recently traveled to China.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 95% of all COVID-19 cases are occurring in China, with the majority of those in Hubei Province. For people in most other parts of the world, your risk of getting COVID-19 is currently low; however, it’s important to be aware of the situation and preparedness efforts in your area.

Local officials have also been asked if it’s safe to open packages or buy items made in China. (It is.) One woman had ordered a dress for a wedding and wondered if it could carry the virus.

The coronavirus has caused the quarantine of more than 50 million people in China, which has a huge retail impact, according to a report in Forbes. But the virus is spreading between people.

There’s nothing wrong with doing some thorough house cleaning with disinfectant, which can help prevent more than COVID-19, local responders said. But buyers should be aware that while there are already products on the market that claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including “coronavirus,” the effect on the novel virus hasn’t been scientifically proven.


Others prepare

Dr. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) said he met with Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman, M.D., to discuss health matters in Kansas.

“The safety of Kansas is my top priority and will continue to monitor Coronavirus developments closely and communicate with officials across Kansas,” Marshall said Friday. “I encourage families to take steps to understand the signs and symptoms of the Coronavirus and begin making contingency plans for food, travel and work if an outbreak were to occur. As always, I recommend regular hand washing, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer and maintaining proper nutrition to keep your immune system strong.”

The Kansas Association of School Boards reports state education officials Friday urged people to use good hygiene and not spread rumors amid growing outbreaks of the new coronavirus. Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson led a live Twitter discussion, saying he was sending KDHE interim guidelines to schools about COVID-19. Schools in Japan have been shut down for about a month, but currently the risk for the general public in the United States is low.

Watson’s advice was echoed by the Barton County panel that met Friday. He said Kansans should rely on information about the disease from official sources, which include KDHE and the Centers for Disease Control.

Schneider said any potential case seen in Barton County should immediately be reported to her office, which will report to KDHE. There is a test for COVID-19 but a vaccine won’t be available before 2022.


As always, I recommend regular hand washing, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer and maintaining proper nutrition to keep your immune system strong.
Dr. Roger Marshall, U.S. Representative