• Last modified 832 days ago (Feb. 13, 2020)


Odds of coronavirus low, but flu still sickens residents

Staff writer

The best protection efforts against a frightening new virus making headlines worldwide are the same as one to prevent spread of influenza, which remains a greater risk to health in the county, county health nurse Diedre Serene said.

The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control are monitoring an outbreak of a newly identified coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan, China. It is known as 2019-nCoV.

Serene said that as of 7 p.m. Monday, 12 U.S. citizens have tested positive for the virus, 318 have tested negative, and 68 tests are still pending.

St. Luke Hospital CEO Jeremy Ensey said the chance of catching flu is another issue.

Kansas is one of 45 states reporting high numbers of influenza-like illnesses, Ensey said.

As many as 8% of all clinic and hospital visits statewide are because of influenza type illness, Ensey said.

“I know the clinic has really been trying to pass the message along to wash hands,” Ensey said.

When someone comes in sick with respiratory illness, they are asked if they’ve traveled or come into contact with anyone who might have coronavirus. The virus is under investigation in 36 states.

In Kansas, one person tested negative for the virus.

Serene said if Marion County had a lot of people come down with the virus and need hospital treatment, the limited number of beds available could be a problem.

That risk is considered low at this point, Serene said.

Health officials recommend the same preventive steps as those to prevent spread of colds and influenza, she said:

  • Wash hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with others who are sick.
  • Stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading disease.
  • Disinfect frequently touched objects such as doorknobs.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.

Ensey said the chance of coronavirus striking in the county is low. The hospital would work with the state and the Centers for Disease Control if a case were suspected.

“Kansas Department of Health and Environment is saying we need to be watching for it, but the risk is minimal at this point,” Ensey said.

Last modified Feb. 13, 2020