A Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) official says the risk of an ongoing outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus causing international concern remains low in Wyoming.

“No reported or suspected 2019 novel coronavirus cases have been identified in Wyoming and the risk to our state’s residents from this virus remains low,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH said in a statement. “However, because the outbreak situation is rapidly changing we will continue to track developments and provide updates.”

Harrist said coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold in people and others that circulate among animals. “This is a new virus and new viruses need special attention,” she said.

The 2019 novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China with a link to a local seafood and animal market. Many early patients reportedly had a connection to the market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. The illness growth has since shown the virus is spread from person to person. Symptoms have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The disease is spreading with cases reported in several countries including the United States. All American testing for 2019 novel coronavirus is currently done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and in Wyoming can only be arranged through WDH.

“What’s important for people to know is there is no evidence of what we call ‘community transmission’ in our country,” Harrist said. “The number of cases in the United States is still low and so far has only involved people who traveled to the affected area of China or who were a very close contact of someone who became ill after travel there.”

Harrist said new, strong travel restrictions are meant to detect and contain the virus to help prevent ongoing spread in this country. “Foreign nationals can’t come to the United States from China right now. Americans returning from the most affected area of China or from anywhere in China with symptoms are being quarantined outside of Wyoming. Americans returning from other areas of China who don’t have symptoms can come home but will be monitored,” she said.

Clay Van Houten, Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit manager with WDH, said “While we are working on our monitoring plan for people who may return to Wyoming from China, we do not expect large numbers to be affected.”

Van Houten noted Wyoming is currently experiencing widespread influenza activity. “The symptoms are similar so many of actions we suggest to help avoid spreading the flu are the same we would suggest if this coronavirus ever became a larger local concern,” he said.

Recommended steps include:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • Stay home if sick.
  • Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.

For more information about 2019 novel coronavirus and Wyoming, visit: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/.

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