SANDPOINT — The coronavirus risk in Idaho is low at the this time, the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare said on Friday.
However, the agency said all residents should take precautions to avoid all respiratory diseases, including staying home if you’re sick, avoiding sick people and covering coughs and sneezes with the crook of your elbow or tissue.
The total number of people who have been or are being monitored by Idaho public health officials is 32, although 18 people are no longer under monitoring, according to Health & Welfare. Two people have been tested, although the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases remained at zero Friday.
“At this point the risk to Idahoans and to people in the U.S. is still relatively low. We don’t anyone to become alarmed, but we want to make people aware of the situation so they can prepare accordingly,” Panhandle Health District spokeswoman Katherine Hoyer said on Friday.
Hoyer said anyone traveling back to the state from China is being screened at the airport and the health district would be alerted. Those whose screens come back negative and are symptom-free are allowed into the state and health districts stay in daily contact with them to find out if their situation changes.
Panhandle Health District staff are in daily contact with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, in addition to epidemiologists across the state, according to Hoyer.
“We’ve had a pretty steady stream of phone calls from the public or businesses or organizations that are just looking for further information,” Hoyer said.
One of the misconceptions that the health district is encountering is the effectiveness of facemasks.
Hoyer said using a facemask could cause people to touch their faces more frequently
“Facemasks should really be reserved for sick people, health care workers or someone who is providing care to someone who is ill,” Hoyer added.
Hoyer said N95 respirator facemasks, meanwhile, need to be fitted by a professional.
“If you’re going to the store and getting an N95, chances are it’s not going to fit right because they need to seal to your face. It’s just going to be ineffective,” she said.
Novel coronavirus is a virus strain that was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. The Washington State Department of Health confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the United States on Jan. 22, in Snohomish County, Wash.
Health experts are concerned about COVID-19 because little is known about the virus and it has the potential to cause severe illness and pneumonia, according to the Panhandle Health District.
To minimize the risk of spread, health officials throughout the United States are working with healthcare providers to quickly identify and evaluate suspected cases.
Symptoms may appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus and include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, nausea and in rare cases diarrhea.
The precautions for avoiding COVID-19 are the same as those for avoiding the flu and common cold. Currently, there are no vaccines available to prevent novel coronavirus infections.
Bob Howard, director of Bonner County Emergency Management, is recommending the public consult CDC or Panhandle Health District websites for information about the novel coronavirus.
“We would also recommend Ready.gov website and encourage people to put together an emergency plan,” Howard said.
Information: healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/COVID19/tabid/4664/Default.aspx and panhandlehealthdistrict.org/covid-19
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.
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