COLUMBUS, Ohio — Public health officials have asked roughly 175 people who have arrived in Ohio from China to self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent the potential spread of the new coronavirus, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said.
No one thus far in Ohio has tested positive for the new virus, but the department has chosen to ask for self-quarantining since COVID-19 is highly infectious, Acton said in a Monday telephone interview from Washington, where she was attending a conference to learn more about the virus.
“In Ohio, we’ve taken a very conservative approach,” she said. “The CDC has had varying levels of guidance, because it’s an evolving situation.”
New infections and deaths in China are falling, but they are rapidly increasing in South Korea, Italy and Iran.
The state health department was able to identify people who had arrived from China because the CDC has screeners at 11 airports with flights arriving from China.
The screening hasn’t worked in all cases. For instance, there have been people reported more than once and some people haven’t been reported at all, but they called their local health departments to let them know they arrived from China.
“So it has not been a perfect net,” she said. “They’ve said that all along. It’s not going to be a perfect quarantine.”
People in Ohio have cooperated with the self-quarantine, Acton said, which has meant making sure the travelers have their own bedroom and bathroom that’s separate from other people in the house.
It is a pandemic?
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, during a Monday morning press briefing, said that coronavirus is not a pandemic, which the organization defines as a worldwide spread of a disease, according to WHO.
“For the moment, we are not witnessing the global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe cases or deaths,” he said. “Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”
Acton said there are different definitions of pandemic, with one being that it spreading to two continents, which has occurred.
She suspects the word “pandemic” will soon be used and more public health guidelines are coming.
“We take pandemics of new virus seriously,” she said. “There isn’t a treatment yet. There isn’t a vaccine.”
Public health officials are not recommending Americans purchase masks, unless they already suffer from an illness that makes them vulnerable to coronavirus, Acton said.
“Honestly, it’s a huge supply issue,” she said. “One of the issues we’re working on is the supply for PPE or protective equipment that is so essential for hospitals to have.”
Masks people wear when painting will not protect them from coronavirus, she said.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer will work, but so does hand washing.
“I still believe in soap and water,” she said. “That is the go-to.”
Hand-washing also helps protect people from the flu and other seemingly mild illnesses that can be deadly, she said.
“I don’t think we’ll run out of soap and water,” she said.
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