UPDATED – March 6, 2020 – Health Officials confirmed the second case of coronavirus in the City of Houston, making a total of 8 in Fort Bend, Houston and Harris County areas. (NOTE: This number may change as days go by.)
The female patient, in the 60 to 70 age range, is part of the same group of travelers to Egypt associated with recent cases announced in Fort Bend County and Harris County. She is currently hospitalized and stable.
HOUSTON, Texas – March 5, 2020 – Harris County Public Health (HCPH) confirmed last Thursday four more cases of Coronavirus, all in Harris County or Houston. The new cases involved four people in their 60s who were exposed to the virus during a trip to Egypt last month. The 70- year-old from Fort Bend took the same trip and this case was confirmed last Wednesday by a Houston laboratory. Four of the five patients with coronavirus are hospitalized in stable condition and the fifth is self-quarantined at home with mild symptoms, health officials stated.
Judge Lina Hidalgo mentioned at a press conference last Thursday that there is no evidence yet of any community spread of the coronavirus.
“All the cases in the Houston area have international travel in common and we’ve been actively monitoring these individuals since they were identified as being at-risk,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “I encourage Houstonians to limit international travel for the time being and heed the advice of public health officials about healthy hygiene habits. If you are feeling sick, stay at home. But do not be paralyzed by fear.”
The health department has launched an investigation to identify any potential contacts exposed to the virus. The department will provide close contacts guidance about the virus and monitor them for the development of symptoms.
“We expect to see more cases in coming days as we receive test results,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
The fifth “patient knew to monitor for symptoms and quickly sought medical care when he started feeling ill” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “His quick action and the response of the public health system signifies that the potential for public exposure in Houston is minimal.”
People who recently returned to the United States from a coronavirus outbreak area need to monitor for fever, cough and difficulty breathing for at least 14 days and seek medical care right away if they develop symptoms. Before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, symptomatic people with a travel history to a coronavirus outbreak area must call ahead to tell the healthcare professionals about their recent travel and symptoms.
If they recommend testing, go as soon as possible to protect yourself and those around you. Testing is confidential. HCPH does not release information about suspected cases to encourage people to get tested and many people test negative.
If a person has not been around anyone with coronavirus or has not visited an ongoing coronavirus outbreak area, they are not at risk.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
– Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing;
– Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
– Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands;
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO?
Residents should go about their daily lives, but practice every day preventative measures to avoid the spread of respiratory viruses:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning product.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%– 95% alcohol.
CDC FACEMASK RECOMMENDATIONS
CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019, to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in a close setting (at home or in a health care facility).
Call your healthcare professional if you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19.
There is no need to go the emergency room unless you have a medical emergency. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.
Stay informed by visiting Ready Harris website www.readyharris.org, Harris County Public Health website www.hcphtx.org/nCov and social media channels @readyharris @hcphtx
ORIGIN OF CORONAVIRUS
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that first emerged in China and has now spread to many countries, including the U.S. While HCPH understands our residents will be concerned, we also know that more than 80% of people who have become infected only experience mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People at higher risk for serious complications are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.