Although the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is rapidly spreading and causing worldwide concern, the current risk for people living in Nebraska is estimated to be low, according to infectious diseases experts at Nebraska Medicine. Nonetheless, Regional West Chief Medical Officer Matthew Bruner, MD, FACOG, says Regional West is fully prepared for any viral or bacterial outbreak, including the novel coronavirus.
“It may not happen here, but we are prepared,” he said. “We are proactive not reactive. We have protocols in place and are in regular contact with the county and state health departments, as well as the CDC.”
The term “coronavirus” is not new. Both the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are coronaviruses. They are called coronaviruses because they look like a crown under a microscope.
There are also four types of coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans that cause mild, cold-like symptoms including runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and fever. These illnesses usually are not serious and only last for a short amount of time, but may advance to pneumonia or bronchitis in infants and people with compromised immune systems.
“We test for coronaviruses, along with rhinovirus, RSV, pertussis, and other viruses whenever we do a respiratory panel and we advise patients who get the diagnosis to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and treat the symptoms as they would a cold,” said Dr. Bruner.
The new or “novel” coronavirus is different because it has never been previously identified and it is rapidly evolving. Unless a person has visited China within the past few weeks, or has been exposed to persons who have recently traveled to China, the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus is low.
The CDC reports on its website that there is no evidence to support transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States associated with imported goods.
Anyone in the western Nebraska region who has potentially been exposed to the novel coronavirus and experiences flu-like symptoms should not go to the hospital or a clinic. At the sign of symptoms, they should call Regional West Community Health or Regional West Emergency Department. Healthcare providers will determine if the patient can be cared for at home or if hospitalization is necessary. Special precautions would be taken before admitting and isolating the patient.
As a regional referral center, Regional West provides a continuum of specialized care for people of all ages − from pediatric to adult patients. When an even higher level of care is necessary, patients are transferred to tertiary care partners for the most advanced treatment.
“Despite the very real concern about the novel coronavirus, influenza is actually a bigger threat and it will continue to be for the next several weeks. If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccination, now is the time to get one,” said Dr. Bruner.
According to the CDC, influenza activity is currently increasing nationwide. More than 8,600 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported in the U.S. from the beginning of October 2019 to the end of January 2020. The percentage of deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia during that period is 6.7% and 68 pediatric deaths were reported. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older should get a flu shot annually.
Regional West Community Health offers flu shots and vaccinations for all ages from birth to seniors, as well as travel vaccinations. The Immunization Clinic is held on the first, second, and third Tuesdays of the month from 3 to 6 p.m.
The adult walk-in clinic is offered weekly on Wednesdays from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. No appointment is needed. Flu vaccinations are also offered by primary care providers throughout western Nebraska.
For more information about vaccinations or the Immunization Clinic, call Regional West Community Health at 308-630-1580.
To protect yourself from all respiratory viruses,
- wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- stay home when you are sick or have a fever of 101 degrees or higher.
- cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue then throw the tissue in the trash.
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects.