The Delaware Division of Public Health continues to coordinate closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health care providers to identify potential cases.
The division also updated its guidance for risk assessment and monitoring travelers returning from China.
On Monday, the death toll from the virus in China topped the 1,000. The figure exceeds the death toll from SARS.
“While there are currently no cases of 2019-nCoV in Delaware and the risk of this novel coronavirus spreading to the general public remains low, DPH is working to implement appropriate monitoring protocols and disease prevention strategies to further reduce any chance of transmission,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “These protocols are based on not only our past experience with monitoring returning travelers during the Ebola outbreak, but also on CDC guidance and evolving knowledge about this virus.”
Risk is based on exposure. Only those individuals with recent travel to China or those who had contact with someone who recently traveled and is ill have an increased risk of becoming ill. For persons without an associated travel risk, it should be assumed that respiratory illnesses are not 2019-nCoV.
As of Feb. 3, all persons returning from Hubei Province in China, as well as symptomatic persons returning from mainland China, will be quarantined for 14 days near a United States airport of entry, under federal orders.
Travelers who are not sick with fever/cough/shortness of breath) arriving from mainland China outside of Hubei Province will be monitored by DPH for symptoms for 14 days after their return. During that time, DPH (or its designee) will be in daily contact with those persons to check their status and health.
Individuals will be asked to stay at home during this period while self-monitoring for symptoms. If any of these persons shows symptoms of fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, they should call DPH right away to determine the next steps, which may include transport to a local hospital for evaluation, isolation, and testing.
DPH began reporting on monitoring efforts its website by Monday, Feb. 10. Numbers will be updated every Tuesday and Friday afterward.
Individuals who traveled from China prior to Feb. 3 are asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after their return. If they become ill within 14 days of their return, they should avoid contact with others, and call ahead to their health care provider to discuss their recent travel, symptoms, and next steps. The health care provider should in turn contact DPH to coordinate next steps. Individuals who returned from China prior to Feb. 3, 2020, do not need to be excluded from school or work. DPH continues to encourage employers and administrators to review their own health policies to make decisions regarding exclusion from work/school for these individuals.
As DPH continues to monitor the situation, health officials are also emphasizing that Asian American/Pacific Islander individuals are at no higher risk of carrying the 2019 novel coronavirus than any other individual. DPH urges people not to make assumptions that someone might be ill or could become ill based on their accent, background or skin color.
Asian Americans have reported encounters with people who made that false assumption.
“You are much more likely to become sick with a common cold virus or flu than to be diagnosed with the 2019 novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Rattay. “Since the start of the flu season, there have been nearly 3,000 diagnosed cases of flu and we just learned of the seventh flu death this season in Delaware. Our Delaware residents of Chinese descent are important members of our community and are not at an increased risk for spreading the coronavirus.”
If at any point laboratory testing confirms a case of 2019-nCoV in a Delaware resident, the available details and protective recommendations would be shared with both the affected parties and the public as quickly as possible.
Right now, 2019-nCoV has not been found to be spreading widely in the United States, so there are no additional precautions recommended for the general public to take. The best guidance at this point is to take the same everyday precautions recommended for avoiding colds and flu.
The U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory on January 31, 2020, advising U.S. citizens not to travel to China due to the ongoing situation involving 2019-nCoV. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice, and commercial carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China. If you are considering a trip to China, keep an eye on the news, federal travel advisories, and be aware of this evolving situation.
For more information on 2019-nCoV, including downloadable fliers, visit https://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph.