Information on 2019 Novel Coronavirus from Division of Public Health

With recent cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) reported in several countries including the U.S., health officials across the nation are increasing monitoring efforts to identify potential cases. The Division of Public Health (DPH) has posted information on its website and we are sharing information about 2019-nCoV and our activities related to the outbreak.

While the available information suggests a low immediate health risk for the general public, we consider any new infectious disease a serious concern and are working with health care providers to promptly identify and evaluate any suspected cases. It is important to recognize that the current investigation and response are dynamic, and frequently changing, and new information about the disease may impact our approach to this disease.

This is what you and the public need to know about the novel coronavirus:

Currently the risk to the general public is considered low. At this time, there are a small number of individual cases in the U.S., and no confirmed cases in Delaware. The Division of Public Health is investigating one potential case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in a Delaware resident. The individual is a Kent County resident. After review of the patient’s travel history and symptoms with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was determined that testing should be performed. Test results are pending from the CDC, and are expected in the coming days. The individual is currently hospitalized in isolation out of an abundance of caution. There is no widespread risk to hospital staff, patients, or visitors, as all appropriate protective precautions are being taken at all hospitals statewide.

To protect personal health information, no additional details will be provided about the individual at this time.

Update: Delaware Resident Tests Negative for 2019 Novel Coronavirus 

Risk is based on exposure. Those individuals with recent travel to any area of China, or contact with someone who has recent travel and is ill, have an increased risk for becoming ill. DPH is not recommending exclusion from work/school of asymptomatic persons arriving from China.

For persons without an associated travel risk, it should not be assumed that most respiratory illnesses are the 2019 novel coronavirus. As you know we are in the heart of flu and respiratory disease season, and with over two thousand cases statewide, most of the population is at greater risk of contracting seasonal influenza than coronavirus.

Symptoms of coronavirus are most similar to lower respiratory infections with patients having fever, cough, and shortness of breath. There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for 2019-nCoV infection. While in some cases illnesses can be severe and require hospitalization, many individuals infected with 2019-nCoV recover by resting, drinking plenty of liquids and taking pain, and fever-reducing medications.

DPH has asked Delaware health care providers to alert us if a person with recent travel to China, becomes sick with respiratory symptoms. When cases are reported, laboratory samples are collected and submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing. This testing can take several days. Delaware currently has one patient under investigation for coronavirus, a Kent County resident who is hospitalized out of an abundance of caution. There is no ongoing risk to staff, patients or visitors at any Delaware hospital. All have appropriate infection prevention protocols in the event they have a patient with suspected 2019-nCoV.

We have had a handful of calls from providers and have followed up. If at any point testing confirms a case of novel Coronavirus in a Delaware resident, the available details and protective recommendations would be shared with both the affected parties and the public as quickly as possible.

Additionally, we have issued guidance to Emergency Medical Services responders regarding what to do if they are called to transport someone suspected to be infected with 2019-nCoV. DPH is holding frequent internal calls to ensure a constant flow of communication, and we are developing materials such as the attached flyer to help the public understand what this virus is, and what they can do to protect themselves. Feel free to share the flyer widely.

When a new disease is circulating, it’s natural for people to ask what they can do to protect themselves and their families. The best guidance at this point is to take the same precautions recommended for avoiding colds and flu:

  • Stay home when they are sick and avoid well people as much as possible,
  • cover their coughs and sneezes; and
  • practice good hand hygiene – frequently wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

The CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to China at this time. If you are considering a trip to China, keep an eye on the news and be aware of this evolving situation. If you have recently returned from a trip to China and are feeling sick, call your health care provider and let them know of your travel and symptoms.

This is a time for vigilance, not panic and together we can prevent the spread of germs and make Delaware a healthier state overall.