One case of the new Coronavirus was confirmed Friday afternoon in Tulsa County, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. To date, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has submitted samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta until they develop their own test kits. While five have come back negative, one has come back positive. While the latest tests are still pending, that is not a cause for concern, as Maggie Jackson, the Community Engagement Director serving Canadian, Blaine, Kingfisher, Garfield, Grant, Logan & Major Counties, said that pending investigation does not mean they have COVID-19.
“Anyone that has been traveling and they have symptoms, they would be under investigation,” Jackson said. “But absolutely not [does under investigation equal infection]. It just means that they had some receptors and we’re monitoring their temperature and potentially testing.”
On Feb. 11, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the current outbreak of coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
By definition, coronavirus is a family of viruses, some of which can infect people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces. The viruses can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19, the latter of which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.
Although the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus, the steps that Oklahomans can take to prevent the contraction and spread of COVID-19, are very straightforward. Jackson said the main thing is that OSDH are encouraging people to avoid inessential travel to the areas in the world where there’s more cases and if someone has traveled to a country that is on the CDC’s list, they should follow the social distancing and stay home.
“We’re just encouraging everyone to follow disinfection procedures like they would for the flu or other viruses, too,” Jackson said. “The CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, including washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. These are everyday habits which can help prevent the spread of several viruses.”
Since it’s mostly unknown about the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, current knowledge is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses, and with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.
“Just basically anyone with a compromised immune system, so that could also be people that are experiencing other illnesses or other things that make their immune system less effective are the ones who are at risk,” Jackson said. “So, people who are older just like they’re at a higher risk for the flu as well. That means we just take special precautions with those groups—keep any sick people away from them and make sure they’re not out and about where there would be travelers or people exposed to the illness.”
Jackson said that she wanted to assure readers that the state health department is working on plans to address it and there are lots of resources through the CDC website for businesses, schools and community organizations to get a plan together. OSDH is working on setting up a call center to answer further questions. The testing process is pending, it is almost ready, but the health department is constantly monitoring the situation across the state. Efforts to develop a vaccine are currently fast tracked, but currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
“We strive to empower Oklahomans through education and resources. To find accurate information on COVID-19 that is updated daily, please visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health website.”
For more local information, please visit the OSDH website
To read the CDC’s guidance for businesses, schools and communities on how they can plan to respond and prevent the spread of COVID-19, click here
The CDC has specific guidance for travelers, available here