The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDHP) just released a statement about how state officials are screening people at risk for coronavirus and takes the opportunity to warn against a much more serious (and common) threat, influenza. In a recent statement provided by the IDPH, they wrote:
(IDPH) continues to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local partners to monitor and respond to novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and has since been detected in other parts of the world, including the U.S.
In February, IDPH began monitoring and testing appropriate individuals for the virus, in accordance with recommendations by President Trump’s Task Force on Coronavirus. Testing is recommended for individuals who traveled to China within the last 14 days AND have symptoms of novel coronavirus (fever, cough, shortness of breath). Public health monitoring and limiting contact with the public is recommended for persons who returned from China within the last 14 days but have no symptoms. Monitoring involves the individual checking in with public health several times each day to ensure the person is still well. These individuals also avoid contact with the public in group settings.
While the emergence of a new virus that can infect humans is always a serious public health concern, the risk to the general public remains low at this time. This is a situation that public health prepares for and responds to with a layered approach to protect the public health.
IDPH reports that testing in the state shows the coronavirus risk to Iowans is quite low. There are fewer than 30 people being monitored and the two individuals tested (as of February 10) have both tested negative.
It’s not too late to get that flu shot, however.
That being said, the IDPH does warn that Iowans are at much greater risk from influenza. In 2018, there were nearly 300 people in the state who died from the flu or flu-related illnesses. That was up from around 140 deaths the previous year.
This IDPH statement on flu risks was buried inside it’s bulletin about its efforts to monitor for coronavirus.
At this time, the greater risk to Iowans is from influenza. This is also the time of year many respiratory viruses circulate. It is important to protect yourself from any of these viruses by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands frequently, and staying home from work when ill. It is also not too late to get your flu vaccination.
Besides getting vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control recommend some simple steps to help you from catching the flu this season:
Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives
Tips on hand washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers
• It’s a SNAP Toolkit: Handwashing
Hand washing resources from the It’s A SNAP program, aimed at preventing school absenteeism by promoting clean hands. From the School Network for Absenteeism Prevention, a collaborative project of the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cleaning Institute.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.