As the Chinese government reports having quarantined some 45 million of its people at the epicenter of the outbreak, the 2019-nCoV coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in China.
Confirmed cases are reported to now surpass 24,500 in multiple countries around the world. Of the 500 fatalities reported, virtually all have occurred in and near Wuhan.
Despite his country’s efforts to contain the virus and the communist government’s early dismissal of offered help by the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Decease Control and similar health agencies of other countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping now acknowledges the need.
In a recent meeting with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Jinping agreed to allow a multi-country team of epidemic experts into the country. It isn’t clear when this will happen. With cases reported in 27 countries and global travel being commonplace, international health experts warn the epidemic easily teeters on becoming a pandemic health crisis worldwide.
At present, more than 500 Americans have returned to the states in two major air evacuations from China and more are scheduled to return. Upon arrival, each will be quarantined for at least 14 days at military bases.
As of noon Wednesday, 12 cases of the virus were confirmed in the U.S., including six in California, two in Illinois and one each in Arizona, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Washington state. More than 80 other Americans were being tested for the virus.
Microscopic viruses, especially new ones such as this, are monstrously scary. The fear can grow to unnecessary panic among people. It’s important to stress there are no cases having been reported in Kentucky. In fact, local health care workers remind us that we’re in far greater risk of contracting this season’s flu bug.
Nevertheless, Hardin Memorial Health has taken prudent precautions to implement new protocols. Patients who visit the hospital or other HMH system health care facility with a fever, respiratory or similar illness will be asked questions about any recent personal travel to China or any contact they may have had with someone who has. An affirmative answer will trigger preventative protocol including separation from other patients to reduce the risk of infecting others.
This is sound procedure and prudent practice on the hospital’s part in light of the circumstances.
In the meantime, we’ll all benefit from practicing simple preventive actions to help combat the spread of respiratory viruses. As the CDC recommends:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.