When the primary U.S. case of a brand new coronavirus spreading all through China was confirmed final week in Washington state, public well being staff had been nicely ready to reply, constructing on classes discovered through the outbreak of measles that sickened 87 folks within the state in 2019.
As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 5 instances of an infection from the brand new coronavirus within the U.S., together with two in California, one in Illinois and one in Arizona. All had been linked to individuals who traveled to the Wuhan area in China. More than 100 individuals are below investigation for the brand new coronavirus in 26 states, in response to the CDC.
The first U.S. affected person, an unidentified man in his 30s, had traveled to the Wuhan space on the finish of final yr. He fell ailing shortly after flying again to the U.S., the place he lives north of Seattle.
In Washington state, well being companies have identified greater than 60 individuals who got here in shut contact with the contaminated man earlier than he was hospitalized in Everett, a metropolis in Snohomish County exterior Seattle.
The case shortly grabbed nationwide headlines, however it didn’t rattle the native well being clinic staff who had just lately geared as much as deal with one other infectious illness.
“The measles really kind of enlightened everybody about ‘Wow, there are a lot of things out there that can be really contagious and can get you really sick, really fast,’” mentioned Tové Skaftun, the chief nursing officer for the Community Health Center of Snohomish County.
Skaftun mentioned she’s glad that final yr’s outbreak pressured them to enhance how they strategy these conditions.
“We’ve recently grown our infection-control program so it’s kind of at the forefront of a lot of what we do,” mentioned Skaftun.
She mentioned that effort centered on educating workers concerning the appropriate precautions to take when confronted with totally different sorts of infectious ailments — together with sporting protecting air-purifying respirators when involved with sufferers who could also be contaminated.
Measles is likely one of the most contagious viruses and may keep within the airspace of a room for as much as two hours. In distinction, public well being consultants consider the brand new coronavirus requires shut contact to unfold between people.
“Coronaviruses are generally transmitted through sneezing, coughing and close contact with individuals, so those are the types of criteria we use to identify people at risk,” mentioned Dr. Kathy Lofy, Washington’s state well being officer.
She mentioned earlier outbreaks and most just lately the measles outbreak led to “a lot of preparation by our health care system partners around how to appropriately … protect themselves from highly infectious pathogens.”
In Washington, public well being staff are day by day calling individuals who have are available contact with the confirmed case and asking about signs reminiscent of a fever or cough. Those being monitored aren’t required to be remoted until they develop signs.
The affected person in Seattle first went to an area well being clinic when he began exhibiting signs. Once it turned clear he was in danger for coronavirus, he was transported to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, a hospital north of Seattle, the place he was handled in isolation. He stays in “satisfactory” situation, in response to the Washington State Department of Health.
Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, the chief clinical officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, which runs that hospital, mentioned it was set as much as deal with high-level infectious pathogens through the Ebola scare of 2014.
“All types of infrastructure had been put in place to ensure that when something came around we’d be ready,” mentioned Compton-Phillips.
Those embody specialised gurneys to maintain sufferers remoted whereas they’re wheeled across the hospital, robots that may take heed to sufferers’ lungs and take blood strain, and rooms with negative-pressure airflow so germs aren’t circulated all through the remainder of the hospital.
In Snohomish County, well being staff are on alert for indicators that any sufferers could possibly be liable to carrying the brand new virus. At the Community Health Center of Snohomish County, indicators posted within the ready room inform sufferers to inform workers if there’s any indication they may have been uncovered.
“We do have patients that are calling in, and we do have patients that are talking about it with their provider staff,” mentioned head nurse Skaftun.
Skaftun mentioned it’s pure that some sufferers have been asking questions, however like different well being suppliers within the space, her clinic had all the suitable protocols and infection-control gear on the prepared after they first heard the information.
Last yr, Clark County, Washington, which is in suburban Portland, Oregon, had an alarming outbreak of 71 cases of measles, largely amongst unvaccinated youngsters. In the Seattle space, the outbreak was smaller, and Snohomish County had only one case of measles. Still, the contagion containment efforts had been statewide and will be drawn on now.
Federal well being officers have been advising well being care staff to take “airborne precautions” and put on protecting gear if they’re close to a affected person who’s below investigation for the brand new coronavirus. At the second, it seems significantly less dangerous than the flu.
“At this time in the U.S., this virus is not spreading in the community,” mentioned Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a information convention.
The Washington affected person was identified after samples had been despatched to CDC headquarters in Atlanta. The CDC has developed a check to diagnose the brand new coronavirus.
“We are refining the use of this test so we can provide optimal guidance to states and laboratoriums on how to use it,” mentioned Messonnier. The company plans to distribute these to public well being labs across the nation “as fast as possible” within the coming weeks, she mentioned.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” mentioned Janet Baseman, a professor of epidemiology on the University of Washington. “The best thing public health can do now is assume that it will be similar to other coronavirus outbreaks we have seen in recent years until proven otherwise.”
“Being overprepared is the name of the game,” she mentioned.
With just one case of the coronavirus from China confirmed to this point in Washington, Baseman mentioned it’s a lot simpler for public well being staff to do contact tracing than it was final yr after they confronted the measles outbreak, which included a number of instances.
“It was a really different situation because there were also a lot more exposed people,” mentioned Baseman.
This story is a part of a partnership between NPR and Kaiser Health News.