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Missouri DHSS and partners continue planning and preparing for novel coronavirus

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at 2:59 pm

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health departments to respond to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak and assure the health and well-being of Missourians as residents return from China.

“We have been working to ensure our state is educated and prepared and is adhering to all of the latest guidance from our federal partners,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS. “As travelers return to Missouri, we have partnered with them and local public health agencies on monitoring efforts to ensure their safety and the safety of their families and communities.”

The federal government is recommending self-monitoring with public health supervision for all travelers returning from mainland China (excluding Hubei Province) who have been screened at one of 11 airports and found to have no symptoms. Local public health agencies are mobilizing across the state to educate returning travelers about how to isolate and check for symptoms twice per day. Daily reports from the travelers to local and state public health help ensure the health of travelers and their communities.

Currently, the federal government is requiring that:

  • All travelers to the United States who have been in China in the past 14 days are being routed to 11 airports, none of which are in Missouri. There they are screened for travel history and symptoms.
  • Travelers who have returned from Hubei province in China where the outbreak is centered are quarantined by the federal government for 14 days at one of the 11 airports.
  • Travelers from China (excluding Hubei Province) without symptoms will be allowed to continue to their final destination. These travelers will self-monitor with public health supervision. If any of those travelers develop symptoms of respiratory illness, they will undergo epidemiological and clinical evaluation, in collaboration with health care providers, to rule out infection with novel coronavirus.

Missouri businesses and employers are urged to review the latest interim guidance provided by the CDC, which also underscores the importance of collaboration with public health authorities. The guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including nCoV, in non-health care settings. The guidance also provides planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of 2019-nCoV.

The risk to the general public in Missouri, especially without history of travel to China, is still considered very low at this time. Remember that the steps to take to prevent the spread of flu and the common cold could also help prevent the spread of other respiratory viruses like 2019-nCoV:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid exposure to others who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are ill.

“As we learn more about the 2019 novel coronavirus, we find there is good and bad news,” said Dr. George Turabelidze, Missouri’s State Epidemiologist. “The good news is that this novel infection does not seem to have as high of a case fatality rate as other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS. What is discouraging is that this virus is showing the ability to spread as easily as the flu, which means there is a likelihood of many more people becoming infected in the near future.”

Those with questions or concerns related to 2019-nCoV can call 573-751-6113 or email info@health.mo.gov for more information. There are also resources available at health.mo.gov/coronavirus and on the CDC’s website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.