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Westchester County Health Department Issues Statement On Coronavirus

Westchester County health officials offered an update on coronavirus.
Westchester County health officials offered an update on coronavirus. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Health officials in Westchester issued a statement after a student in Westchester tested positive for a common strain of the coronavirus that is not connected to the outbreak.

The student at Albert Leonard Middle School in New Rochelle tested positive for the N-L 63 strain of the virus, which is a common malady that many people will get and pass in their lives. It is not connected to the deadly virus that has rapidly spread around the world.

"We ask parents of any children who are feeling severe cold or flu-like symptoms to please keep your children home until they feel better,” New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Laura Feijoo said. “In an abundance of caution, this evening we are cleaning and disinfecting surfaces within the school."

Following that diagnosis, the Westchester County Department of Health issued an alert to “reassure residents that there are no known cases of the novel coronavirus in Westchester and the risk to the general public remains low.”

According to health officials, there are seven types of coronaviruses. Most cause respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold, with mild to moderate illness, such as coronaviruses 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1. These four types of coronavirus are quite common and not worrisome. Only SARS, MERS and novel coronavirus frequently cause severe illness.

“It is important to know that if there were a case, residents would hear about it from the County Health Department. Testing for this new type of coronavirus cannot be performed without the cooperation of both the County and State Department of Health, and both departments would be involved in notifying the public and limiting the spread of the illness.”

According to the New York State Department of Health (DOH), Chinese authorities report most patients in the Wuhan City outbreak have been epidemiologically linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible zoonotic origin to the outbreak. Chinese authorities additionally report that they are monitoring several hundred healthcare workers who are caring for outbreak patients; no spread of this virus from patients to healthcare personnel has been reported to date.

According to Cuomo, with travelers expected to begin returning to the country this week from Lunar New Year celebrations in China, the New York State Department of Health has begun working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to post multilingual signage about the virus at all four Port Authority international airports.

Last week the DOH issued guidance to healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, clinical laboratories and local health departments providing updated information about the outbreak, and ensuring protocols are in place if a patient is experiencing symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus, had a travel history to Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus originated.

There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus, though health officials said that “everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of the virus, including washing hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick and frequently cleaning or disinfecting objects and surfaces.

The Department of Health said the best way to avoid viruses during cold and flu season is:

  • Avoid exposure – Avoid close contact with people who are sick with fever and cough.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
  • If someone in your home is sick, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces such as door knobs and faucet handles with a bleach solution. This is especially helpful during flu season, and any time.
  • And of course, get a flu shot if you have not already done so.
  • Stay home when you are ill to avoid exposing others.

Health officials noted that "since this virus is very new, health authorities continue to carefully watch how this virus spreads. It is probably spread from animals to humans, and it also may be spread from person to person. It's not clear yet how easily novel coronavirus spreads from person-to-person. It's important to know this in order to better understand the risk associated with this virus."

Symptoms of the novel coronavirus may include:

  • Runny nose;
  • Headache;
  • Cough;
  • Sore throat;
  • Fever.

New York State Health Commissioner. Howard Zucker said, "We encourage all New Yorkers to take normal precautions against sickness, such as regular hand washing and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. We will continue to work with our partners at the CDC and are prepared to assist in any way necessary to ensure the health of New Yorkers."

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