Montgomery County Taking No Chances With Coronavirus

Although there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia, Montgomery County officials are taking no chances.

The appropriate county officials have participated in several informational conference calls with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Maryland Department of Health to learn all they can, said Mary Anderson, spokesperson for the county Department of Health and Human Services.

Those officials posted an information page on the county’s home web page (https://montgomerycountymd.gov/OPI/alerts/coronavirus.html) about the coronavirus, she said. The posting discusses the virus’ background, symptoms, how it is spread and how it can be prevented.

“While this is a new virus that is attracting a lot of attention, the risk to the general public, you and me, the risk to the general population is low unless you have traveled to this province in China,” Anderson said.

“We want people to have the information they need to, but to put this in perspective as well,” she said.

While the risk is low, she noted there are things individuals can do to reduce their chances of getting ill, and these are displayed on the county’s website. One of the recommendations is for everyone to wash their hands often.

Other recommendations include a request for people to stay at home and not go to work or school if they are sick. They also advise using an alcohol-based sanitizer when soap and water are not available, and to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue or a sleeve when coughing and sneezing.

“The precautions to prevent the spread of the flu and the common cold are the same ones” that should be taken to prevent coronavirus, she said.

The Montgomery County Public Schools sent a letter addressed to parents and guardians this afternoon, which noted, “there is no reason from a clinical standpoint to be alarmed.” The letter lists the precautions also listed on the county’s webpage.

The virus is expected to have originated in Wuhan City, in the Hubei Province of China. The outbreak has been ongoing since December 2019, with thousands infected in China and at least 100 dead in that country. Five people in the United States have come down with the coronavirus. Each of these individuals are said to have visited China recently.

The virus has pneumonia-like symptoms, including respiratory problems, a runny nose, coughing and sneezing, according to a spokesperson from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The virus spreads from animal-to-person, with most patients in China being linked to a large seafood and live animal market. But, there is some limited person-to-person spreading of the illness, according to the University of Maryland Health Center.

The UMD Health Center sent out an email to students about the virus. It said it’s asking students during health appointments about their international travel, and will be screening students who traveled to the U.S. from China.

 

Montgomery College (MC) has not taken any action in regard to the outbreak. Marcus Rosano, director of media and public relations for the college, said MC follows Montgomery County’s DHHS, and has no plans thus far to alert students about the coronavirus. 

The county DHHS said the state of Maryland has been communicating with local hospitals about the coronavirus.

Right now, there is no vaccine to prevent the coronavirus. The CDC says people should take common measures to prevent the disease, including washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding close contact with sick people and covering your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.

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About Suzanne Pollak and Maryam Shahzad

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