San Joaquin County officials are working to keep residents updated and informed about the coronavirus as cases throughout the state are confirmed and as disease control experts warn of a potential pandemic outbreak.

Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the United States, Dr. Maggie Park with the San Joaquin County Public Health Department has been working with medical offices and hospitals in the county to inform doctors about the disease and how to determine if a patient has contracted coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Most people that have contracted the disease did not show symptoms right away, it took time for the symptoms to show,” she said. “However, once it has been determined that there is significant evidence that would prove (a patient) contracted COVID-19 there is a chain of events that we have to go through before we can confirm they contracted coronavirus,” she said.

If a doctor believes their patient has contracted the virus they will contact county health officials, who would then call the California Department of Public Health, and they, in turn, would contact the CDC.

If the CDC has reason to believe a person has the disease, they are labeled a “person of interest” and are assigned a number before they are required to coordinate a test, which will confirm their symptoms.

“There have not been any confirmed cases or any suspected cases of coronavirus in San Joaquin County,” Park said. “If someone has traveled and believes they may have contracted the virus they are encouraged to contact their hospital or emergency facility before showing up, so staff can go exert proper safety measures.”

Individuals believed to have coronavirus and those receiving treatment have been under quarantine, according to Park.

The CDC said it’s unclear how easily or sustainably the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading between people, but they encourage people that have traveled to China to look out for key symptoms of the disease that include; fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. According to Park, the first four strands of human coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s by doctors and scientists, and the strands are commonly found in influenza and are known to cause fevers, coughing and respiratory illnesses.

“Coronavirus is difficult to track because it has a lot of the same symptoms as pneumonia and the flu,” Park said. “Doctors have been able to determine a patient’s symptoms based on their travel history because those who have developed COVID-19 have traveled to places like Wuhan, China where the disease was first discovered.”

According to the CDC, the greatest risk of COVID-19 infection is for people in China or people who have traveled to China. The CDC recently issued a travel warning that recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China along with portions of South Korea.

“This particular strand of the (COVID-19), is linked to both SARS and MERS because it is believed to have spread from animals to people,” Park said. “The most recent strand of coronavirus is believed to have been caused by bats but scientists have not been able to pinpoint it exactly.”

The first zoonotic strand of coronavirus — diseases that are caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that spread from animals to humans — was found in 2003, when medical researchers found a mutation in the coronavirus strand that caused the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. Medical investigations found that the disease was transmitted to humans in Asia from civet cats. SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed 774 people.

Following the SARS epidemic in 2012, a second outbreak was discovered in Saudi Arabia, known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The disease infected 2,442 persons and killed 842 and was transmitted from dromedary camels to humans.

Coronavirus has killed more than 2,350 people in China, according to a New York Times report that found over 77,900 cases of the illness have been confirmed worldwide —only 634 of those confirmed were outside China.

The CDC has confirmed 57 cases of coronavirus in the United States, including 34 cases in California. The majority of California’s confirmed cases are citizens who were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.

While the virus has been mostly contained in the U.S. to this point, the potential for a pandemic breakout has rattled global stock markets in recent days. In the U.S., the Dow Jones plummeted more than 1,000 points on Monday and nearly 900 points on Tuesday.

According to a New York Times report, investors are dropping their shares in markets connected to energy, industrial and material sectors — portions of the market closely tied to Chinese demand for raw materials. Firms such as Nike, Apple and Walt Disney, which do major business in China and rely on it to make goods, have been hit the hardest.

On Tuesday, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Americans should prepare for the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country.

“There currently is not a cure for coronavirus,” Messonnier said. “Each method of treatment is specific to each patient, there have been some cases where steroids and respiratory devices have helped patients. There have been a few specialized cases where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization to allow doctors to use (an experimental) Ebola vaccine on patients.”

Early this week the Trump administration asked Congress for $2.5 billion in funding to combat and contain the spread of coronavirus. Clinical trials for a vaccine could begin at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within weeks.

Amid public health fears, Park recommends people avoid close contact with sickly individuals, refrain from touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. She also suggests using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

“You want to put into practice the same precautions you would use during flu season,” she said.

To learn more about the COVID-19 and how San Joaquin Public Health officials are monitoring the disease, visit www. sjcphs.org.

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