PITTSBURG — Although Kansas still has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, state health officials this week launched an online resource center to provide information on the virus as it continues to spread among Americans from New York to California — with a death toll of at least 11 people in the U.S. so far as of Wednesday.
“The best thing Kansans can do is be informed,” Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman said in a press release. “COVID-19 is a new virus and, as a result, many people have questions about it and how to keep their families safe. The COVID-19 resource center will provide a centralized location for Kansans to go to learn the most up-to-date information.”
On Wednesday, congressional negotiators also reportedly reached a bipartisan agreement to spend more than $8 billion combating the outbreak of the disease. Globally, the fatality rate for confirmed cases of COVID-19 is 3.4 percent — much higher than that of the seasonal flu, which has similar symptoms — according to the World Health Organization (WHO), though the WHO says the virus is containable.
The public can learn more about the virus at www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus. KDHE will also be sharing updates through its social media channels. Additional information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/
“KDHE is working closely with local and federal authorities to ensure that every effort is made to keep Kansans safe and healthy,” Norman said. “In addition to educating yourself about the virus, the public can also take precautions to prevent the spread of it by doing simple things like washing your hands, practicing good hygiene techniques and staying home if you're sick. This is the best defense to COVID-19.”
Crawford County has also updated the main page of its website, crawfordcountykansas.org, with links to coronavirus information from KDHE and the CDC. Rebecca Adamson, director of the Crawford County Health Department, said she is regularly in touch with both agencies.
“They're pretty much getting us things almost every day,” Adamson said.
Adamson said she will be giving a presentation on coronavirus next week in Girard at a meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, which is chaired by Crawford County Emergency Manager Rusty Akins.
In Johnson County, although as elsewhere in the state there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases, the county's health department was monitoring "fewer than 30 individuals" for symptoms Tuesday, the county's emergency preparedness coordinator reportedly said. Sedgwick County, meanwhile, has reportedly activated a command system to gather and distribute information to healthcare professionals and the public.
“There are persons under investigation,” Adamson said, “but there are no positive cases so far in Kansas. We've had nothing in Crawford County to this point.”
KDHE is advising Kansans who have recently traveled to countries including China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea and developed symptoms of the virus within 14 days of travel to stay home and call their healthcare provider. Symptoms include fever with lower respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. Those who have had contact with someone with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 are advised to take the same precautions as those who may have come into contact with the virus while traveling overseas.
Adamson asked that anyone returning to Crawford County from a country at high risk for coronavirus get in touch with the County Health Department, which can be reached at 620-231-5411, regardless of whether they have experienced symptoms of the virus.
“People travel and no one really knows,” Adamson said. “They need to be able to reach out to us, and we would like that to happen.”
While there is no need to panic about the coronavirus, Adamson said, people should educate themselves about it and take appropriate precautions. Adamson also said she recommends people get their regular flu shots.
“Currently the risk to the general public is low,” according to a KDHE fact sheet available on its newly launched coronavirus resource center page. “Right now, COVID-19 has not been spreading widely in the United States, so there are no additional precautions recommended for the general public.”
The fact sheet notes that steps taken to prevent the spread of flu or the common cold can also help limit the spread of coronavirus. These include washing your hands often, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, avoiding contact with sick people, staying home and avoiding close contact with other people in general, and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
“There are no medications specifically approved for COVID-19,” the fact sheet notes. “Most people with mild COVID-19 illness will recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications. However, some cases develop pneumonia and require medical care or hospitalization.”