State issues update and guidance for coronavirus

DOVER — The Delaware Division of Public Health is working to prepare for a possible coronavirus spread, although no one in Delaware has tested positive for it so far.

DPH said Wednesday the state has activated its State Health Operations Center, continues to work with the federal government and local partners and is monitoring asymptomatic individuals who recently returned from China. Delawareans should be aware of the situation and have a plan just in case, although no one should panic, the agency said.

Two University of Delaware students were screened and cleared of coronavirus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month.

Since appearing in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, the disease has spread to more than 40 countries. There are more 80,000 cases worldwide, including about 2,700 deaths, according to federal and state officials.

In the United States, 57 people have tested positive, although no one has died.

“While the CDC’s comments this week indicate heightened concern, it is important to note that we have been making preparations all along to not only contain the spread of the disease, should it occur in Delaware, but also to mitigate the impact of the virus if community spread were to occur,” DPH Director Karyl Rattay said in a statement.

“As we continue to prepare for the likelihood of community spread in the U.S., we have begun stepping up our planning and preparedness efforts around mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC. In the coming days and weeks we will be having additional conversations with health care providers, schools, businesses and other state partners and stakeholders about what guidance to consider in the event of an outbreak locally.”

Schools and businesses are urged to review their plans in the event of a mass spread, and Delawareans should take steps to avoid becoming sick. The state is currently experiencing a particularly serious flu season, with 11 deaths and more than 5,000 cases, and many of the same health guidelines that apply to the flu are relevant here too.

People should cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow, wash hands frequently and stay home when sick. Although there is no vaccine for coronavirus, those who have not yet received a flu shot should do so.

Symptoms of coronavirus in people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear anywhere between two and 14 days after exposure.

Lawmakers on the Joint Finance Committee received an update from Dr. Rattay Wednesday, with DPH officials highlighting the precautions they have taken.

Individuals who have recently been in Wuhan or the surrounding area are quarantined, while some Delawareans who have returned from other parts of China are being closely monitored.

“Very importantly, and this is going to be more important moving forward, is making sure that individuals know how to monitor themselves for symptoms, that they have a thermometer and if they develop any symptoms that they are reaching out and getting guidance, they’re not just rushing to the emergency department where if they were infected they might be exposing others,” Dr. Rattay said Wednesday.

Coronavirus is part of a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. This virus originated in bats.

It been named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes COVID-19.

Initially, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China, had been linked to a large seafood and live animal market, although more people have since reported catching the virus from another individual. According to Dr. Rattay, only two people in the United States have contracted it from another person, with both picking it up from a spouse who was in Wuhan.

DPH continues to receive information from the CDC and other partners on this dynamic and rapidly changing health event. For more information and updates related to COVID-19, visit https://dhss.delaware.gov/dph or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html.