China virus cases increase as more preventive measures taken

In this Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, photo, workers pack surgical masks at a factory in Suining city in southwest China's Sichuan province. The number of confirmed cases of the new virus has risen again in China on Saturday, as the ruling Communist Party faced anger and recriminations from the public over the death of a doctor who was threatened by police after trying to sound the alarm about the disease over a month ago.

While Tribland remains at little risk of problems with the coronavirus, area public health officials and Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings are on top of the situation and are prepared to act if the need arises.

That’s the message this week from Mary Lanning and the South Heartland District Health Department in respective news releases addressing the new virus, which apparently originated in central China and has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization. As of Friday, the virus reportedly had sickened more than 34,800 people and killed more than 700 — virtually all in China.

As of Tuesday, 11 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the United States, but none of those were in Nebraska or surrounding states. Currently, the virus doesn’t spread easily from human to human.

Officials have announced that Camp Ashland, a National Guard training site in eastern Nebraska, will be used as a quarantine site for American evacuees from China, who will stay at the camp for for 14 days of health monitoring to ensure they do not have coronavirus. A planeload of evacuees arrived in Omaha on Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is unlikely the quarantined evacuees at Camp Ashland or on other military bases around the United States will show symptoms of the illness.

Michele Bever, director of the South Heartland District Health Department, said residents of Adams, Clay, Webster and Nuckolls counties have no immediate cause for undue concern.

“We understand that some are worried about the coronavirus outbreak,” Bever said. “However, the current risk for South Heartland residents is low.”

The new virus, known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, causes respiratory illness. It was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, after officials were notified of an outbreak of a breathing illness.

To date, the virus is associated with mild to severe respiratory illness that includes symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. No vaccine is available, so the best way to avoid the illness is to avoid exposure to it.

Bever said staff members in her agency are keeping close tabs on the global situation and will be prepared to respond as warranted.

“The situation is continually changing, with new developments daily, but the health department is working with state and national partners to monitor the situation, and is receiving and passing along the most current guidance,” she said.

Within the area, she said, “local preparedness partners” include hospitals, health care professionals and emergency managers.

“We are sharing the most current guidelines and recommendations, and making sure we have everything in place to respond should any local cases of coronavirus infection show up in our district,” Bever said.

At Mary Lanning, Janet Riese, employee health/infection prevention manager, and Dr. Daniel Brailita, an infectious-disease physician, said the hospital is following protocol from the CDC and guidelines from the South Heartland health district, and has policies in place to prevent the spread of any viruses or diseases.

“We train our (emergency room) and admissions staffs to watch for certain symptoms and ask if the patient has traveled,” Riese said. “These procedures have been in place for a while now.”

ER or admissions staff members who notice potential problems are trained to notify the hospital’s Infection Prevention Department so the patient can be placed in isolation. The staff is trained to use gowns, masks, face shields and gloves and follow isolation protocol.

If a patient is assessed and coronavirus is suspected, South Heartland is notified to conduct testing while the patient remains in isolation. South Heartland would be the organization to notify the public if a case of coronavirus were to be confirmed locally.

The following prevention tips are being provided for everyone hoping to steer clear of coronavirus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Contact your health care provider’s office before seeking treatment if you suspect you may be ill with coronavirus.

Bever encourages residents to stay up to date on the coronavirus issue. The CDC website,, is updated frequently and includes Frequently Asked Questions, fact sheets, updated information on the number and location of cases, recommendations for travelers and travel restrictions, guidelines for health professionals and laboratories, archived video recordings of national briefings, and more.

The SHDHD website,, will be used to post local information and updates. Questions for the district health department may be directed by telephone to 1-877-238-7595.


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