As cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to spread across the world, including the United States, area health officials said they are monitoring and preparing for an outbreak here. As of March 3, Pennsylvania had no reported cases of the illness.
Doylestown Health is working closely with the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the state Department of Health, to coordinate its response and plans regarding the potential spread of COVID-19, said Ron Watson, Doylestown Health’s director of communications and government affairs, in an email. These efforts, he noted, have been ongoing since earlier this year.
Emergency room patients are being screened and, if necessary, placed in isolation to prevent the spread of the contagious virus. Updates are also being provided daily to the health system’s staff, said Watson.
“It’s important to remember that symptoms may be mild, and the best defense is good hand hygiene throughout the day,” said Dr. Scott Levy, vice president and chief medical officer of Doylestown Health. “We are closely following CDC guidance and are well-prepared to treat patients with infectious respiratory diseases, including influenza which up to now has a far greater impact on community health, and coronavirus if or when it should develop as a local health issue.”
Dr. David Dansker, director of the Bucks County Health Department, said if health care professionals determine a test for the virus is needed, a sample can be taken and sent to the state health department for testing. No such samples have been taken in Bucks County, as of March 3, he said.
However, he added, “I believe it will happen in the near future.”
Dansker agreed with Levy that the seasonal flu, at this point, poses a greater threat to area residents than COVID-19.
“I believe people should be concerned (about coronavirus,) but not panicked,” said Dansker, in a phone interview.
People should follow the prevention advice of health care officials and agencies around the world, which is proper handwashing, staying home if sick and coughing into one’s elbow, not into the hand, said Dansker. If one’s symptoms worsen, consult your doctor.
Watson stressed that the prevention, management, and treatment of coronavirus is continuously evolving as new information becomes available worldwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Current risk assessment:
- For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
- People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated though still relatively low risk of exposure.
- Health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure.
CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.
The most accurate and up-to-date information is available at websites managed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, see: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf), the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the World Health Organization.
“Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported Covid-19 cases have died. Seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said on Tuesday.