With growing concerns over the coronavirus, including a suspected case in Brazos County near Texas A&M University, several local hospitals are adding to their screening process. Patients are being asked if they have traveled to China or possibly come in contact with the coronavirus.
Russ Jones is the Chief Epidemiologist at Tarrant County Public Health. He said his agency has been in contact with area hospitals and sharing alerts from the Centers for Disease Control.
“Department Operations Center has been activated so that we are meeting regularly to keep an update on the situation and control measures that are being put in place to reduce the risk of it being a problem here in Dallas Fort Worth," Jones said.
The CDC warns healthcare providers to get a detailed travel history for patients being evaluated for fever or acute respiratory illness.
Jones said there are still a lot of unknowns about the coronavirus.
"We don't know the transmission dynamics,” Jones said. “We know there has been some human-to-human transmission being reported but we don't know how contagious it is at this point."
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who led the Ebola investigations, said despite the unknowns there is no need for fear.
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"I feel like if it were to happen with what our health department and epidemiologist have been through, my staff has been through, we would be the best prepared place in the country," Jenkins said.
Jenkins said a lot was learned in the Unites States while dealing with Ebola including limiting exposure during treatments. He said extra precautions are already being taken with the confirmed coronavirus case in Washington State.
"With the man in Seattle there is not even a person doing that,” Jenkins said. “It's a robot with a stethoscope that is caring for that patient. Because we're learning on these viruses we really want to limit that contact with a sick person. So that's a lesson learned."
Today the CDC raised the Travel Notice to level three. This means avoid all nonessential travel to Wuhan, China.
The CDC is screening passengers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan at five major U.S. airports.
DFW is not one of them. But in a written statement to a spokesperson said DFW is prepared to support the CDC and Tarrant County Public Health if screening is necessary.
The general public is encouraged to practice general preventive actions to avoid infection, including those practices used to avoid the flu.
Tips for Avoiding the Flu
- Get a flu vaccine every season, especially people at high risk
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home when you are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- If you're experiencing flu symptoms, visit your doctor and begin taking antiviral medications to help you recover more quickly