EPHRATA, Wash. — While there currently are no cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in Grant County or Washington, officials across the state are “preparing for the eventuality” that the disease will emerge here, according to Grant County Health Officer Alexander Brzezny.
“There are no cases of coronavirus in Grant County, no suspected cases in Grant County. There is one suspected case in Washington,” Brzezny said at a regular meeting of the Grant County Health District board on Tuesday.
The coronavirus, officially known as 2019-nCoV or Covid-19, emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has so far killed more than 1,000 people and infected tens of thousands more. The outbreak prompted Chinese officials to quarantine cities and isolate infected individuals, and has roiled global industrial production of everything from automobiles to cellphones.
The virus is related to other highly contagious upper respiratory diseases, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in China in 2003; Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012; and some common cold viruses.
“As of Tuesday, 15 individuals in Washington were being monitored,” Brzezny said. “That’s a very small number of individuals, and none are in Grant County.”
Brzezny told board members that there is a great deal of coordination and planning between federal, state and local health officials to lay out procedures for dealing with cases of Covid-19 when they are found in the United States.
“We are preparing to manage individuals who come down with coronavirus,” he said. “We should be prepared to see coronavirus in the U.S., and prepared to deal with individuals in Grant County.”
“We are preparing,” Brzezny added. “We are looking at regional capacity.”
With flights from China being routed to 11 U.S. airports, Brzezny noted that Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of them. However, one of the issues with Covid-19 is that someone can be infected for a while and not show any symptoms, Brzezny said.
One of the other curious things about Covid-19 is that the worst symptoms of the disease don’t often show up until about a week after someone first comes down with it, he said.
“They may be OK for a while, but then they get sicker under isolation,” Brzezny said.
While Covid-19 has frightened many across the world, Brzezny said influenza is still a much greater danger, with 22 million Americans — roughly 7 percent of the population — infected during this year’s flu season alone. Brzezny said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 12,000 people in the United States have died from influenza since the season started last fall.
While the season’s earlier outbreak was caused by a strain of the Influenza B virus, Brzezny said the second wave is “95 percent” Influenza A, which is much more likely to cause global flu pandemics. In fact, Brzezny said this year’s most common flu strain is the H1-N1 that caused a major outbreak in 2009.
“It’s still around,” he said. “And it’s not getting the press it deserves.”