“Fortunately, we have had no confirmations of COVID-19.”

HAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO– Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH), as one of 113 local health departments in Ohio, is part of a highly-organized prevention and response effort for the coronavirus, or COVID-19 outbreak.  The agency is in lockstep with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in managing protocols for prevention and if necessary, mitigation of cases of COVID-19.

“As of today, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio,” says Greg Kesterman, interim health commissioner at HCPH.  “We are working diligently with resources at the local, state and federal levels to make sure our response plan is up-to-date, our partners are well-informed, and the healthcare community knows exactly how to handle any eventuality.”

Symptoms of the COVID-19 in people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little-to-no symptoms to people becoming severely ill and dying.

Current responsibilities for local health departments are working together across Ohio to monitor individuals returning from travel in China and other countries.  ODH is informed of travelers returning to Ohio.  If a traveler returns to Hamilton County, HCPH is responsible for monitoring and quarantining those individuals for 14 days – the incubation period for COVID-19.  Monitoring includes daily temperature checks while the local health department is in constant communication with those quarantined.  If a person develops symptoms during the quarantine period, HCPH helps them get the care they need.

“To date, we have been responsible for monitoring people who fit the travel criteria established by CDC,” Kesterman says.  “Fortunately, we have had no confirmations of COVID-19.”

Another important public health responsibility is contact tracing.  If an individual develops symptoms, health department staff track and monitor individuals with whom they may have had contact.  These could include family members, friends, work colleagues or other individuals.

HCPH and health departments across the State are in constant contact with ODH.  There are regular conference calls with the State and health care facilities to share current information and guidance and to stay on top of ever-changing challenges with the response to coronavirus.

“The actions that we’re all taking are very similar to our work during the Ebola response in 2014,” Kesterman adds.  “What we’re doing is very typical public health work.  We update plans, track and monitor those potentially exposed and then put protocols into place to prevent the risk of spreading the virus.”

According to the CDC, imported cases of COVID-19 in travelers have been detected in the U.S. Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 also has been seen among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan, China but at this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States.  The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States.

But individual risk is dependent on exposure.  For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.  Under current circumstances, certain people will have an increased risk of infection, for example healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 and other close contacts of persons with COVID-19.

Flu is currently a greater threat to public health.  HCPH urges everyone to get a flu shot.  It’s not too late and at the very least, the vaccine can help lessen symptoms and reduce their duration.

For more information on flu and COVID-19, visit: www.hcph.org; www.cdc.gov; or odh.ohio.gov.

Ohio Governor DeWine and the Ohio Health Director released an update COVID-19 Prevention and Preparedness Plan

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was joined by Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton, MD, MPH; Cuyahoga County Health Director Terry Allan, MPH; and MetroHealth President and CEO, Akram Boutros, M.D., FACHE today gave an update on the state’s preparedness and education efforts to limit the potential spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio nor anyone currently under investigation for the virus.

“I want to be clear that the threat of Coronavirus in Ohio and the United States remains low,” said Governor Mike DeWine, “but this could change, and we have to be prepared.  I believe it is imperative that we are open with the public and are communicating information in real-time about the Coronavirus to both inform and educate our communities.  We will communicate what we know, when we know it.”

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus strain that has only spread in people since December 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to consider the health risk from COVID-19 to be low among the general public in the U.S. However, COVID-19 continues to be an issue of concern internationally and there is potential for an eventual community person-to-person spread to occur in this country. 

“Since the start of this outbreak, we’ve taken a proactive approach to prepare and carefully monitor potential cases and travelers about COVID-19 in Ohio,” said Dr. Acton. “As the CDC advised, we need to be prepared for community spread of COVID-19. We are working to make sure our healthcare partners, first responders, state agencies, and local health departments have the resources they need to respond.”

Today Governor DeWine ordered the following action by state agencies:

  •     The Ohio Department of Transportation will post information from the Ohio Department of Health in all state rest areas on hand washing protocols including messages on Ohio Travel TV.
  •     The Departments of Rehabilitation and Corrections and Youth Services will increase frequency and use of disinfectant measures in all their state facilities to protect inmates, families, and staff.
  •     The Governor called on Ohio college and university leaders to urge every student and faculty member on their campuses who have not yet received a shot to get one at their health clinic immediately. 
  •     The Governor is asking our college and university leaders to prohibit college travel to nations where the CDC has recommended no travel, such as China and South Korea. 
  •     The Governor is asking college and universities to take appropriate action to accommodate students who are studying abroad and may need to come back to the United States. 
  •     The Governor is asking the Ohio Department of Aging to continue working with local aging networks to identify the most vulnerable older adults with the highest needs to make sure that plans are in place to meet their needs – whether that is providing additional meals or additional medication or other personal care needs.
  •     The Governor is asking local aging advocates across Ohio to go out into their communities to check on nursing care facilities to ensure that all illness prevention methods are in place.  
  •     The State of Ohio will also be paying aggressive attention to common areas in state-owned buildings, including significantly increased cleaning frequency of these areas and hand sanitizer stations in common lobbies and hallways.

Governor DeWine announced that on Thursday of next week, the state will be convening a summit in Columbus for all of Ohio’s local public health departments and health commissioners and staff that will include members of the Governor’s Cabinet.   

Symptoms of the COVID-19 in people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little-to-no symptoms to people becoming severely ill and dying.

“As this situation evolves, we will continually update Ohioans through our website, odh.ohio.gov, our Facebook page and our Twitter account,” said Dr. Acton “It’s important to remember that the most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is available through the Ohio Department of Health, as well as the CDC.”

For information and updates related to COVID-19, visit the Ohio Department of Health website at www.odh.ohio.gov or coronavirus.ohio.gov

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