As of Thursday, DC Health said there were no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington DC. The risk of coronavirus in the District remains low, the public health agency said.
COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. It has since been found in 37 countries including the United States, where 15 cases have been diagnosed. 45 cases were diagnosed in other jurisdictions, making 60 known cases of the disease in the US.
On Wednesday, a man in Northern California was diagnosed with Coronavirus at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California. He is the first patient to possibly contract the disease through ‘community spread’, meaning he had not traveled to affected areas or been in contact with someone known to have the illness. “It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected,” said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a statement, noting that the case was detected through the ‘astute clinicians’ in the U.S. public health system.
DC Health said that there was no evidence of community spread in the US, saying that the immediate risk of the virus to DC residents is currently low. Facemasks are therefore not necessary in those without symptoms except in health professionals and care providers.
They emphasized that there was no evidence that coronavirus could be transmitted via packages shipped from other countries.
The best way to prevent illness, DC Health added, is to avoid exposure through the usual means:
- Stay home when you are sick
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not available
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a trash
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Get the flu vaccine
DC Health said that the agency is monitoring the situation closely and working with the CDC to provide the most up-to-date guidance and recommendations for healthcare providers, travelers and other stakeholders. The Department of Health is also working on preparedness measures with regional and federal partners just in case an outbreak should occur. “This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, and DC Health will provide updated information as it becomes available,” said the statement.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) activated its pandemic team Jan. 29, and is conducting deep cleanings of buses and train cars twice a week, reported the Washington Business Journal.
DC Health has prepared answers to frequently asked questions, which are listed below. More information can be found at dchealth.dc.gov/coronavirus or via the CDC at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html