Utah Department of Health Gears up for Coronavirus Response

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) has activated its incident command structure and is actively preparing a response to the ongoing outbreak in China of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, “2019-nCoV.” This virus is spreading from person-to-person in China and exported cases have been detected in a number of countries internationally, including the United States. Five cases have been confirmed in the U.S. in four states – Arizona, California, Illinois, and Washington. However, there is no evidence that 2019-nCoV is currently spreading from person-to-person in the U.S.

The UDOH and Utah’s local health departments are working closely with healthcare professionals, public health partners, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prepare for the possibility of cases in Utah.

The UDOH has investigated potential cases of novel coronavirus in Utah, but at this time no cases have been confirmed in the state. The UDOH will alert the public if, or when, cases are confirmed.

Dr. Angela Dunn, UDOH State Epidemiologist says “The UDOH is providing information to local health departments and healthcare providers across the state on how to safely and effectively evaluate ill people who have been to China. UDOH will continue to monitor the situation, provide guidance and investigation support so partners across Utah can safely identify and respond to potential cases.”

Outbreaks like this – when a new virus is emerging to infect people – are always concerning. While this situation poses a very serious public health threat, the risk to Utahns is low at this time. However, the situation is evolving, and risk will depend on how effectively the virus spreads and how sick it makes people. UDOH will continue to monitor the situation and provide updated information to the public.

Everyone can help public health respond to this emerging public health threat by following these measures:

  • Avoid non-essential travel to China.
  • Avoid travel while sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Older travelers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss any travel with their healthcare provider.
  • If you traveled to China, especially Wuhan or the Hubei Province, and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing:
    • Seek medical care immediately. Call ahead before going to see a doctor or emergency room and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
    • Avoid contact with others.

To learn more about how the UDOH and local health departments are responding, please join us for a media availability today at 2:00 p.m. at the Utah Department of Health, Cannon Health Building, 288 North 1460 West, Salt Lake City in Room 101. State Epidemiologist, Dr. Angela Dunn, will be available to answer questions.

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