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County so far untouched by coronavirus

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

Local health officials told county commissioners Tuesday that no cases of 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have surfaced in Franklin County, but that the state health department has announced there are four presumptive positive cases in Florida.

The first patient is an adult Manatee county resident without travel history to countries identified for restricted travel by the Centers for Disease Control. This person did seek health care.

The Florida Department of Health is working closely with the patient, their close contacts and health care providers to isolate and monitor persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and implement testing of anyone who may develop COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

The second patient is an adult resident of Hillsborough county with a history of travel to Italy. Both patients are isolated and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by public health officials.

Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Tuesday a third patient was the sister of the 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman whose infection has already been confirmed and who had recently traveled to northern Italy — one of the areas identified for restricted travel by federal authorities.

A fourth patient is an older man in Santa Rosa County who has severe underlying health conditions, DeSantis said during a news conference Thursday.

Despite these cases in Florida, the overall immediate threat to the public remains low.

"This is the scenario that we prepare for every day in public health,“ said State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees. ”Thanks to Florida's integrated public health system, we have been able to proactively engage and plan with our public health partners at every level, enabling us to take these important steps in a very expeditious manner. Our epidemiological teams are among the best in the nation, and they are right now aggressively pursuing every potential lead during these critical early moments of this outbreak in Florida.”

COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days following exposure. Most people recover from the COVID-19 without needing special treatment. The elderly and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. As a reminder, the department always recommends everyday preventive actions to help impede the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;

Staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with persons in poor health;

Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;

Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then disposing of the tissue;

Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;

- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty; and

Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

The CDC does not recommend that asymptomatic, healthy people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

A person that experiences a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and any other destination under CDC travel advisory should call ahead to their health care provider and local county health department (CHD) and mention their recent travel or close contact.

If a person has had close contact with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area or been in contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, they should call ahead to a health care professional and the county health department. The health care professional will work with the Department to determine if the person should be tested for COVID-19.

Please visit the Department's dedicated COVID-19 webpage at www.FloridaHealth.gov/COVID-19. This remains the best and most up-to-date resource for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.