South Heartland District Health Department Executive Director Michele Bever said she expects the novel coronavirus most certainly will reach Adams, Clay, Nuckolls and Webster counties before it runs its course.

That isn’t to say the virus or the infection it causes, known as COVID-19, needs to cause any fatalities or serious illnesses in its wake locally, however.

Bever said measures like self-quarentining, self-monitoring, hand sanitizing, and limiting exposure to others for more than 10 minutes within a 6-foot radius can greatly reduce the chances of spreading the virus locally.

“I think it will be basically some (cases) everywhere,” she said of COVID-19, which has become a pandemic affecting communities in many parts of the world. As of Monday afternoon, there were 18 confirmed cases in Nebraska, though none in the four-county area served by SHDHD.

“It’s inevitable that it will get here. This doesn’t mean (all cases) will be severe.”

There are several less deadly strains of coronaviruses that have been around for some time, but none as impactful as the COVID-19 strain, which is spreading exponentially in many areas. While the number of severe cases is believed to be about 12-13%, Bever said, the disease is fatal in about 3% of cases, with most fatalities involving senior citizens and individuals with compromised immune systems.

One recommended measure to combat the virus is self-quarantining for 14 days by those who travel outside the state. Those who have traveled to other countries and to high-risk U.S. states are being asked to contact their local health department to be monitored more closely for symptoms, which include coughing, fever and difficulty breathing. Areas identified as high risk within the U.S. include certain counties in California, Washington, New York, and most recently, Colorado.

Even those traveling outside of the identified states and counties still are asked to take the precautionary measure of self-monitoring their health.

Symptoms typically show within two to five days of exposure, though it may take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear, Bever said.

Situations to avoid at this time include being in close proximity to others for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Bever said that following the recommended protocol most likely will reduce the spread of the virus. Those exhibiting symptoms are encouraged to check in with their local health care provider or SHDHD for an evaluation of their condition to determine the likelihood that their symptoms are related to the virus.

Those self-monitoring or self-quarantining needn’t avoid family members as long as there are no symptoms present, she said. Once symptoms develop, however, it is recommended the person showing symptoms isolate themselves from all human contact and report their condition to their local health care provider or SHDHD for recommendations.

“If somebody has traveled (out of state), stay home, basically,” Bever said. “However, if somebody is quarantined and starts showing symptoms it is important they contact their local health care provider or SHDHD.”

Information on the virus, including the latest number of confirmed cases in Nebraska, is available online at SHDHD’s website, southheartlandhealth.org.

Bever said it is especially important for communities to protect those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill as a result of contracting the virus. Steps such as self-monitoring, hand washing and self-quarantining are proactive ways to help the cause.

“This is a great thing to do as a community,” she said. “It’s a community service to all of us to do that. We want our older residents to be safe.

“If all of us practice these things and are careful about how we go about our work, it’ll make a difference in our community.”

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