KALISPELL — Officials in Washington State reported Monday that four more people have died from the coronavirus bringing the state's death toll to six and as the cases continue to add up, Flathead County officials are taking pre-preemptive measures to help contain a potential outbreak.
Kalispell Regional Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Doug Nelson says the hospital has been meeting daily with the Flathead City-County Health Department and local health professionals as they prepare for -- and montior -- the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr. Nelson said the hospital has initiated a screening process for potential coronavirus patients in area clinics and the hospital’s emergency room.
“Now that the virus has spread some in the United States we have what’s called an incident command structure put together to be able to respond promptly to cases of coronavirus if they should occur in Montana. And I should emphasize we haven’t had a case in Montana yet,” said Dr. Nelson.
Flathead County Health Officer Hillary Hanson said the department is in constant contact with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).
Hanson said the Montana Public Health Laboratory in Helena is expected to receive coronavirus testing equipment in the near future and that in-state testing will help expedite results for potential coronavirus patients in Montana.
“We’ve heard maybe in the next week or two that they’ll receive the test and then we will have that availability in the state of Montana,” Hanson told MTN News.
She says the health department is working closely with schools and business in the Flathead Valley providing coronavirus prevention resources and guidance. A number of schools in Washington State have suspended classes to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
“We’re preparing if we need to get there, but we’re not there yet, so this is just a time for them to be really diligent in their own planning and ensuring that they’re taking all those necessary precautions,” said Hanson.
The Flathead City-County Health Department has set up a website specifically for the coronavirus issue in addition to an automated public information line at: (406) 751-8188.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information about coronavirus on their website, including the following:
CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in 60 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernexternal icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.
Source and Spread of the Virus
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.
Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, meaning some people have been infected who are not sure how or where they became infected. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.