Health tips for avoiding viral illness
- Stay home. If sick and avoid school, work or any other public gatherings.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cough/sneeze into your elbow or cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue. Throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
While the risk for contracting the coronavirus in Bulloch County is remote at this time, local school and county public safety officials and hospital staff are all working together to monitor the potential presence of the disease in the county, as well as educating people on ways to prevent infection.
According to www.theguardian.com, the newest coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, was first encountered in Wuhan, China, in December. It has affected over 83,000 people around the globe, causing more than 2,800 deaths. Covid-19 can cause pneumonia, and symptoms include cough, fever and breathing problems, even organ failure. Little information is known about the virus, but research is currently being done.
In spite of the low risk here, staff at East Georgia Regional Medical Center, Bulloch County Schools and the Bulloch County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) are monitoring the spread of the virus.
“Our hospital continually works to be prepared for all types of infectious diseases,” said Erin Spillman, East Georgia Regional Medical Center marketing director. “We have been educating our team members on the infection control protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19), just as we do for other types of infectious diseases. We are using the screening guidelines for symptoms and risk factors and have a response plan to protect patients and our staff should it be needed.”
Meanwhile, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday that he's set up a task force to assess the state's preparations for addressing any potential coronavirus cases.
The 18-member task force will work on preventative measures, resource deployment and collaboration with other government agencies, the Republican governor said. It includes Colleen Kraft, director of the Clinical Virology Research Laboratory at Emory University, and state epidemiologist Cherie Drenzek.
There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said in a statement included in the news release.
“We are taking action now — ahead of any confirmed cases — to make sure that we are ready for any scenario,” she said.
Bulloch County Public Safety/EMA Director Ted Wynn said he met with county government officials Friday to discuss the virus, and said the EMA is continuously monitoring the virus status and passing on any information from the CDC and World Health Organization as well as the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“We are following their recommendations,” he said.
Area schools also are being proactive regarding the potential risk.
“Bulloch County Schools wants to provide the latest information we have about the coronavirus, and how we work with public health officials to be prepared for any health-related emergencies in our community,” said Hayley Greene, Bulloch County Schools public relations director. “According to the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of today, the risk for contracting the coronavirus remains low, and there are no confirmed cases in Georgia. However, it is always our role as a public school district to have a plan and be prepared.”
The CDC has protection and early containment strategies in place, and they have been successful, she said.
“As a result, there has only been one new case in the United States in the past weeks and no community-wide spread, as in China. However, the CDC does expect more cases in the United States, so they and the Georgia Department of Public Health have asked communities to be prepared.”
Bulloch County Schools district administrators, as well as safety and medical staff, will remain in contact with the Bulloch County Health Department and EMA. Bulloch County Schools will follow their directives, she said.
Wynn said “commonsense” preventatives such as staying home if you are sick, washing your hands often and coughing into your elbow are good habits to maintain.
“We understand the sensitivity at this time and want to reassure the community that we remain alert and ready to provide such care if necessary,” Spillman said.
Greene suggested following the EMA and Bulloch County Schools websites and social media for updates. For national and state information, visit www.cdc.gov or www.dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus.
She said school officials stay in communication with staff, employees and parents; ensure medical staff at each school are trained to recognize and report signs of illness; and have faculty and school medical personnel encourage employees and students to use proper hygiene. The school system also makes sure custodians use standard cleaning practices established by the International Sanitary Supply Association and the Cleaning Industry Research Institute.
If the virus poses a more serious threat in the area, Bulloch County Schools will “follow orders from the Georgia Department of Public Health, if they recommend vaccination clinics or appropriate community mitigation measures such as the temporary closure of schools or cancellation of school events,” Greene said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.