WDH Updates Recommendations as Coronavirus Threat Spreads

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As the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, Wyoming has thus far been spared. Nonetheless, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) speculates it’s just a matter of time until the state sees its first case.

“We have no reported cases in our state to date and that’s one of the reasons we still believe the risk within Wyoming from this virus remains low,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said in a March 9 release. “We believe it’s likely the disease will spread to this state at some point, but do not yet know how widespread the illness will be over time after it does arrive. In Wyoming, travelers to certain locations with high numbers of reported cases and close contacts of ill people are at the highest risk.”

Currently, the Center of Disease Control is reporting 423 cases in the country across 35 states. Of those cases, CDC reports 72 are travel-related, 29 spread person-to-person, and 322 currently under investigation.

Given the swift spread of the virus, the Wyoming Department of  Health (WDH) is actively monitoring the situation, according to the release.

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“There are simply some things we don’t yet fully know about COVID-19 such as how easily it spreads and how many patients may experience severe illness,” Harrist said. “However, the symptoms reported with this disease are familiar to all of us:  fever, cough and shortness of breath.”

Harrist further recommends the following steps to avoid the spread of any respiratory illness, including COVID-19:

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  • 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.

“One thing we are NOT recommending is the use of face masks as a general preventive measure,” Harrist stated, contrary to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who is advising that people wear masks to avoid contracting the virus.

Face masks should be used by people who are ill to help prevent spread, she added, noting that face masks are also important for health workers and others taking care of infected people.

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Harrist noted the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory, which is part of WDH, began COVID-19 testing last week. Some large commercial laboratories have also added COVID-19 tests to their services.

The CDC currently recommends no nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy and no travel on cruise ships. Entry to the United States from China and Iran is also restricted.

“We are also recommending that Wyoming’s long-term care facilities such as nursing homes take steps such as screening of visitors and employees, and reviewing their illness prevention plans,” Harrist said.

For more information about coronavirus disease 2019 and Wyoming, visit the Wyoming Department of Health or the CDC.