By Kraig Humbaugh, MD, MPH
Lexington-Fayette County Health Department Commissioner
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus first identified in China late last year. Since then, tens of thousands have been infected in China, and the virus has begun to spread to other countries. As of February 21, 2020, no community transmission has been documented in the United States, and no cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Kentucky. However, the situation is evolving rapidly and many unknowns still exist about the virus’ mortality rate and ease of transmission.
Travel bans have been enacted for non-U.S. citizens who have recently traveled in China. Those allowed to travel to the U.S. from China are being screened upon entry at one of 11 U.S. airports. Once at their destination in the U.S., travelers from China, or who have been in contact with known cases, are being asked to voluntarily monitor themselves for fever and symptoms for 14 days following any potential exposure. The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department is assisting in this self-monitoring process. If travelers develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19, testing can be coordinated through the state health department’s Division of Laboratory Services in Frankfort and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Like other coronaviruses, illness caused by COVID-19 is primarily respiratory in nature and can range from mild to severe. No vaccine has yet been developed. In order to control spread of disease, people who are suspected to be potentially infected should be given a surgical mask to wear and placed in isolation. Standard contact and airborne precautions, including the wearing of a gown, gloves, eye protection and N-95 or higher respirator are recommended for workers attending to these patients.
Perhaps most importantly, obtaining a thorough travel history on each patient will help identify the current primary risk factor for COVID-19 as of February 21, 2020: travel to China. If COVID-19 is suspected, contact the facility to which the patient is being referred and notify the local health department, in order to help avoid long wait times and possible transmission of disease to staff and others.
For the latest information on the monitoring, diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov or contact the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department at 859-288-2437 during regular office hours or 859-335-7071 for public health emergencies after business hours.