WV DHHR prepares for potential spread of Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) –  The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health continues to proactively prepare for potential community spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Currently, West Virginia has no cases of COVID-19 and no patients have been tested or are otherwise under investigation for the illness in the state.  Most West Virginians are unlikely to be exposed to COVID-19 at this time, and the immediate health risk is low. However, according to CDC, due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it is important for families and business to prepare now for potential community spread.

“We are working to ensure our health systems, emergency management agencies, first responders and county health departments are prepared and have the resources they need to respond to localized outbreaks in West Virginia communities,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.

As of February 25, 2020, there are more than 80,000 cases worldwide, including more than 2,700 deaths. There are 57 cases and no deaths to date in the United States.  The public health response is multi-layered, with the goal of detecting and minimizing introductions of this virus in the United States and to reduce the spread and the impact of COVID-19. Because the virus is new, the human population presently has little or no immunity against it. This has facilitated the spreading of the virus quickly from person to person worldwide.

“While the immediate risk of COVID-19 to West Virginians is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat,” added Dr. Slemp. “It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season, so DHHR recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine. Take every day preventative actions to stop the spread of germs, such as washing your hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and staying home from work or school if you are sick.”

Gov. Jim Justice has urged the DHHR to closely monitor this outbreak and maintain communication and outreach with federal, state and local public health partners.  Local health departments are equipped with guidance and a toolkit to safely monitor the health of any residents returning to West Virginia from China and elsewhere around the world.  Tools are being developed to inform, prepare, and respond to localized outbreaks of COVID-19 in healthcare, business, and educational settings including childcare.

For the most up-to-date information on this evolving outbreak please visit www.publichealthalert.wv.gov or http://www.cdc.gov/COVID19.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can Follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com