Since announcing a case of 2019 novel coronavirus in Snohomish County, Wash., the state Department of Health (DOH) and Snohomish Health District have been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on interviewing the patient and beginning a contact investigation. This includes establishing a detailed travel history with the patient and identifying close contacts who may have experienced some level of exposure.
Health officials are actively monitoring these contacts, which means a public health worker will call each person daily to check for symptoms like fever or respiratory issues. Should one of these close contacts develop symptoms, they will be instructed to immediately contact the public health worker, who will help arrange a medical evaluation.
“As of now, we have identified at least 16 close contacts. Local public health staff started reaching out to them yesterday and continue to do so today,” said Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters. “The risk to the general public remains low. If there is a location where we are concerned about potential transmission, and where public health cannot contact those individuals directly, that information will be released quickly."
Coronaviruses are primarily spread through respiratory droplets, which means to become infected, people generally have to be within six feet of someone who is contagious and have droplets land on them. This is very different from airborne diseases like measles, so the public health response is very different.
As we learn more about 2019 novel coronavirus, we will better understand when people become contagious, but other coronaviruses are not contagious when the person does not have symptoms. The patient did not report any symptoms during his flight or at the airport. But out of an abundance of caution, the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine is working with the airlines and state health departments to ensure appropriate passenger notification.
“This may be a novel virus, but it is not a novel investigation,” said Secretary John Wiesman. “Public health staff participate in these types of investigations all the time and are well trained to have these conversations.”
Advice to the general public is the same as every cold and flu season. Wash your hands regularly and if you’re sneezing and coughing, stay home. If you’ve traveled from Wuhan City, China into the U.S. and you have symptoms, seek advice from your health care provider. If you don’t have a health provider, reach out to your health department. At this time people should go about their usual routines and activities.
DOH has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington state, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
The Snohomish Health District, with support from our Medical Reserve Corps and Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, have also activated a call center. Snohomish County residents and visitors with questions can call 425-388-5088 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting today. Call volumes will be monitored to determine when that call center will be de-activated.
The DOH has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington state, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call the DOH at 1-800-525-0127 and press #. Additional information is also available on the website.
More information on 2019 novel coronavirus is available from: