Indiana’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 or Corona virus put health agencies and hospitals around the state and here in Daviess County on alert.
The risk may be low but the report of the first confirmed case and the declaration of the state of emergency by the governor has put local health agencies on alert.
“The key that everyone needs to understand is hospitals throughout the nation prepare for this every day,” said Jennifer Butler, quality and infection control director at Daviess Community Hospital. “Managing outbreaks like this is commonplace for us because we practice and drill. This is what we do.”
“We have preparedness plans in place for almost any pandemic,” added Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender. “The State Department of Health has been on top of this and we have been getting a lot of education and training. The communication has been good. The state has given us supplies and equipment for what we need to do.”
Because the virus is something new, officials say they feel that raises more worries for the public. Right now, there is no magic medicine to cure the COVID-19 virus and no immunization against it.
“There are always going to be concerns,” said Butler. “That’s going to happen any time there is something new out there and you don’t know how that virus is going to react.”
For health providers some of those concerns have been allayed by the work with state and federal officials.
“Just the interaction we have had at the state level and the national level, they have kept us very informed and that’s been very helpful,” said Daviess Community Hospital CEO Tracy Conroy.
Now it is time to put that information and training into action. People will notice changes when they go to their health provider.
“We have to do a proper screening,” said Conroy. “That’s what we are getting in our training. We want to make sure we ask the public and patients if they have traveled or been exposed somewhere with an outbreak.”
The other element is things that can help limit the spread of the virus. That includes fewer handshakes and hugs and some standard hygiene precautions.
“Use the same techniques that we use when we are trying to prevent the flu,“ said Conroy. “Good hand washing, cover your mouth during coughs and sneezes and stay home if you are sick. There is no reason to panic.”
Hospital officials have expressed some concern about making certain all of the information on the COVID-19 virus gets to all corners of the county.
“A challenge that we have is making sure the information gets to our Amish community and our immigrant community,” said Butler. “The Amish population, they do travel. They do mission trips. They go to other Amish communities in other states.”
That worry is something the health department has been working to solve.
“The Amish community, we have seen them today,” said Sullender. “They are very aware of the information out there. We have had the forms and information translated to Spanish and Creole and they have been sent out to all the schools so that information has been disseminated to all of our special populations. The biggest problem will be with the changing information, to keep on top of it.”
While there have been no reports of the Corona virus so far in Daviess County officials are suggesting that anyone who feels that they may have been exposed to it, not just show up at the doctor’s office, hospital or clinic.
“If you feel like you have been exposed to this and need to seek medical attention it is imperative that you call first,” said Butler. “This is super important.”
“That’s huge if they are suspicious that they have been exposed,” said Conroy. “Call your provider so that everyone can be prepared and they can minimize any exposure to others.”
Exposure will most likely result in a 14-day quarantine where health department officials will monitor the patient’s progress and help lay out appropriate treatment if the symptoms of fever, cough and congestion happen.
“I know the Corona Virus is scary and new, but we have already had 70 people die of the flu this year in Indiana,” said Sullender. “We are very prepared for this. This is what we train for and this is what we do well.”