CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), issued a release on Wednesday that stated the Bureau for Public Health is continuing to proactively prepare for potential community spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The release stated that currently, West Virginia has no cases of cornavirus and no patients have been tested or are otherwise under investigation for the illness in the state. The release also stated that most West Virginians are unlikely to be exposed to coronavirus at this time, and the immediate health risk is low. However, the release also stated that according to the CDC, due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of coronavirus around the world, it is important for families and businesses to prepare now for potential community spread.
“We are working to ensure our health systems, emergency management agencies, first responders and county health departments are prepared and have the resources they need to respond to localized outbreaks in West Virginia communities,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.
The release stated that as of February 25, 2020, there are more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, including more than 2,700 deaths. The release also stated that the public health response is multi-layered, with the goal of detecting and minimizing introductions of coronavirus in the United States and to reduce the spread and the impact of the virus. Since the virus is new, the human population presently has little or no immunity against it, according to the release. This has facilitated the spreading of the virus quickly from person to person worldwide.
“While the immediate risk of COVID-19 to West Virginians is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat,” added Dr. Slemp. “It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season, so DHHR recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine. Take every day preventative actions to stop the spread of germs, such as washing your hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and staying home from work or school if you are sick.”
The release stated Governor Jim Justice has urged the DHHR to closely monitor this outbreak and maintain communication and outreach with federal, state and local public partners. Local health departments are equipped with guidance and a toolkit to safely monitor the health of any residents returning to West Virginia from China and elsewhere around the world, according to the release. Tools are being developed to inform, prepare and respond to localized outbreaks of coronavirus in healthcare, business, and educational settings including childcare.