Texas physicians should recommend patients take the usual precautions to avoid viruses as health officials investigate a novel coronavirus outbreak that began in China.
“The message to patients should be the same for avoiding influenza or other [germs] that are circulating this time of year: Wash your hands, avoid contact with sick individuals, avoid touching your nose and mouth, and stay home if you are sick,” Jennifer A. Shuford, MD, infectious disease medical officer at the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), said on a conference call Friday morning.
Texas has had four persons under investigation (PUI) for the coronavirus since Thursday, DSHS officials said Friday; however, one case already has been cleared.
Two cases have been confirmed in the U.S.: One in the state of Washington and another in Chicago, health officials have said.
Physicians also should help patients avoid spreading false information about the coronavirus, particularly as health officials continue to learn more, DSHS said.
“It’s a novel virus, but the fact that it’s a virus makes us know that there are common types of precautions that we can take that are effective in preventing the spread,” DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, said during Friday’s call. “It’s a new virus but it’s a virus, and we know how to protect ourselves against those.”
Health authorities urge physicians to be on the lookout for symptoms, particularly in patients who have recently traveled to Wuhan City, China. Symptoms include fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath).
Physicians, emergency department staff, and outpatient clinics should get a detailed travel history of patients who are febrile, especially those with respiratory infection symptoms, DSHS said.
If a PUI is suspected, health care professionals should follow the usual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria, which includes isolating the patient and notifying infection control personnel at your local health department.
More information and guidance is available on the CDC website as well as the DSHS website.
The Texas Medical Association website also has information on infectious diseases and how you can help protect patients. TMA will continue to monitor CDC advisories and will report any updates.