The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) swept the nation by a storm, with extensive travel restrictions and procedures in place for emergent quarantines as necessary. The outbreak which originated in the Wuhan region, Hubei Province, China has been deemed a pandemic under two criteria as determined by the Ohio Department of Health. The virus is newly discovered and communicable.
Although, the virus has primarily affected Wuhan and its immediate vicinities, travellers from China that were infected, carried the virus to a growing number of international locations including the United States. Out of the 398 total cases, 12 were confirmed positive across 6 states, 318 negative and 68 pending across 37 states as well as territories in the United States.
Initially, Melanie Amato, the press secretary for the Ohio Department of Health had stated regarding the virus, “Ohio remains at low risk for the novel-coronavirus and we have zero confirmed cases at this time. Right now, the virus is also not spreading in any community in the U.S. which puts Americans also at a low risk of exposure,” said Amato. “We do take this virus very seriously and continue to work with our team of state experts, local health departments, and local partners that perform daily monitoring of reportable diseases, including 2019-nCoV. We are also working proactively with healthcare providers and local health districts/partners to identify and appropriately address these emerging threats. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment for Ohioans may change.”
Since then, Ohio has seen a total of 5 cases with 4 cases testing negative and 1 case, still pending investigation. This Person Under Investigation (PUI) shall be subjected to a 14-day quarantine, however, public health officials have stated that there is no reason for Ohioans to panic.
According to Dr. Elie Saade, MD, MPH, medical director for infection control at University Hospitals, “There is nothing specific to be done for the Coronavirus itself.” It is his expert opinion that a person is more likely to die from influenza, should the person not have been vaccinated.
Despite the severity of the outbreak at the epicenter, the local community in northeast Ohio is encouraged to follow the guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health.
“Extensive work has been done over the past 15 years by CDC and all 50 states to prepare for an influenza pandemic. Influenza pandemic preparedness plans would be appropriate in the event that the current 2019-nCoV outbreak triggers a pandemic. Policy procedures would include state and local monitoring and isolation protocols that would be handled by local health departments. No other policies are needed at this time,” said Amato.
The CDC developed a new laboratory testing kit for use in testing patient specimens for the 2019-nCoV, called the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel.” This kit, while developed for usage in designated laboratories as qualified by the CDC, was also granted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) package. This would allow the FDA to authorize the use of unapproved, but potentially life-saving medical or diagnostic products during a public health emergency.
Inspite of the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services declaring the 2019 outbreak as a national emergency, northeast Ohio will not be receiving any test kits due to the lack of requirement.
There are no policy initiatives being implemented to fund testing and research of the outbreak at state level at this time. “The federal government is still learning about this new virus. Once the initial threat is over, we will have more time to research the virus and the situation. However, A CDC-developed laboratory test kit to detect 2019 novel coronavirus has begun to ship across the U.S. including Ohio which will allow our lab to test the virus and improve the response time for letting people know results,” says Amato.
The best thing the local community can do at this time is to follow prevention guidelines set forth by the local health departments, including daily washing of hands, sneezing or coughing into one’s sleeve as well as avoiding sharing personal items and other ingestible materials.
Nadine Battah- Video, audio, editing.
Jay Shah- Audio, video, writing, photos.