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Health Department issues China virus medical advisory

The Maui News

The state Health Department sent out a detailed medical advisory for health care providers Tuesday to be on the alert for patients who traveled from Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and may have pneumonia contracted from the novel coronavirus.

An outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan City has been developing since December and now includes more than 300 confirmed infections and several deaths in China, the Health Department said. There has been one confirmed case in the U.S., in Washington state, and others in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

While human-to-human transmission appears limited, the situation continues to evolve, said the Health Department advisory issued Tuesday afternoon.

The advisory covered reporting, testing, specimen collection and interim health care infection control recommendations. Providers are advised to notify the department’s Disease Outbreak Control Division immediately if a patient meets the 2019-nCoV specifications.

The Health Department also is coordinating with emergency medical service personnel and first responders, the state Department of Transportation and infection control partners in medical facilities throughout the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Department are in communication; the department also is monitoring its well-established respiratory surveillance network, which reviews flu activity in Hawaii.

The Health Department also is advising everyone (6 months of age or older) and especially those who travel to receive a flu vaccination.

“With the current flu activity, there will likely be crossover in clinical presentation so the more people vaccinated against flu, the more helpful that will be,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

However, the CDC says there are currently no vaccines available to protect against human coronavirus infection.

Those who have traveled to Wuhan City and feel sick should:

• Seek medical care right away. Before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about the recent travel and symptoms.

• Stay home. Except for seeking medical care, avoid contact with others.

• Do not travel while sick.

• Cover mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not hands) when coughing or sneezing.

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Coronaviruses circulate in animals, including camels, cats and bats, but they can sometimes evolve and infect people, the Health Department web page on the virus said. This is what happened with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Most of those affected by the new coronavirus were linked to a large seafood and animal market, likely through animal-to-person spread. However, some patients were not exposed to animal markets, so there are concerns of limited person-to-person spread, the Health Department said.

The CDC said Friday that it would be screening travelers from Wuhan City at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Los Angeles International (LAX). The Health Department said that nearly all travelers from China enter the state from other U.S. or international ports of entry that are being monitored.

Travelers to Wuhan City are advised to:

• Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meet).

• Avoid contact with sick people.

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Online resources for the 2019-nCoV are posted at health.hawaii.gov/prepare/cdc-issues-warning-about-pneumonia-cases-in-wuhan-china-caused-by-novel-corona virus/. Other information on the virus can be found at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/novel-corona virus-china, www.cdc.gov/ coronavirus/novel-corona virus-2019.html and www.who.int/csr/don/05-january-2020-pneumonia-of-unkown-cause-china/en/.