Abbott meets with state health officials on coronavirus

(Office Of The Governor)

State health officials met with Gov. Greg Abbott Monday to discuss the novel coronavirus, its current status in the US and what Texas is doing to combat any potential threats.

Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) commissioner Courtney Phillips, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) commissioner John William Hellerstedt, and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) chief Nim Kidd briefed the governor on the virus.

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The virus, labeled 2019-nCoV, originated in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China. Last month, doctors in Wuhan began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a wholesale seafood market. 

The CDC confirmed the first US case last week when a man in his 30s started feeling ill after returning to Washington state from traveling in China. 

(Office Of The Governor)

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The most recent US case is an Arizona State University student who recently returned from Wuhan and is now in isolation according to the Arizona Department of Health Services and ASU. 

Two Texas university students, one at Texas A&M University in College Station and one at Baylor University in Waco, were initially suspected of having contracted the virus after recent travel to China, but both tested negative.

China has confirmed more than 2,700 cases of the virus, with 81 deaths. Most have been in Wuhan and more than 40 cases have been confirmed in other places with virtually all of them involving Chinese tourists or people who visited Wuhan recently.

In response to the virus, DSHS has activated the State Medical Operations Center (SMOC) which serves as a touchpoint for any requests from local entities and also ensures consistent collection, tracking, and reporting of activities and data, says a release from the Governor's office.

TDEM is coordinating with local agencies to ensure relevant supplies are available to communities across the state. All agencies are actively communicating with the CDC, local health departments, regional advisory councils, health providers, and local entities to share information and updates on protocols and processes. 

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(Office Of The Governor)

DSHS is also working with local health departments to assess those with respiratory illness and recent travel to Hubei for possible testing.

Travelers are advised to check for symptoms and contact their health care provider if they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of being in Hubei. DSHS is urging health care professionals to ask patients with respiratory symptoms about their travel history and contact their local or regional health department if they think a patient may have novel coronavirus.

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Austin Public Health is coordinating with DSHS and the CDC to monitor and prepare for any possible cases in Austin and is also distributing information on the virus to local healthcare providers.

The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. CDC recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces