Officials are monitoring 27 people for coronavirus
State health officials are monitoring 27 individuals for the deadly new coronavirus, including a Hawaii resident who returned from the epicenter of the outbreak.
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State health officials are monitoring 27 individuals for the deadly new coronavirus, including a Hawaii resident who returned to the islands Monday after a recent trip to China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will monitor the quarantined individual for 14 days on the base at Pearl Harbor. He or she was in Hubei on Saturday.
The more than two dozen others who went elsewhere in China are in “self-quarantine” either at home or in hotel rooms. They will be tracked via phone calls, texts or videoconferences several times a day. Health officials might also spot-check the individuals, 20 of whom are visitors to the islands, to ensure they are staying away from the public.
None have shown symptoms of the virus that has killed more than 900 in China and sickened more than 40,000.
“We want people to be confident that they’re not being exposed to coronavirus,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. “Because 200,000 U.S. citizens live in China, we have received and we expect to receive people from China as we go. … We’ve made a commitment to make sure we take no risks.”
Green added that the state is watching how the virus “behaves” across the rest of the world.
“If this becomes a global pandemic, it will change everything. It will change all of our capacity in every jurisdiction across the country and world,” he said.
There are still only a dozen individuals across the country who have contracted coronavirus, which has symptoms similar to the flu — a more common virus that has infected 22 million in the U.S.
“We’re actually very lucky they found only one individual so far who’s been in that region within that 14-day transmission period,” said state Health Director Bruce Anderson, adding that the state soon will have the ability to test for the disease locally. “The lab test is going to give us the ability to quickly determine if the individual has been exposed to this virus. If someone’s sick, more than likely they’re going to be found to have the flu. If the individual does come down with symptoms, he will be transported to the hospital. We’re resolving any uncertainties in favor of protecting public health.”
When asked about travelers who happened to be on the same plane as the quarantined individual, state Epidemiologist Sarah Park said the likelihood of transmission is “very low at this point.”
“We know that you’re most likely infectious when you’re symptomatic; that is the assumption,” she said. “This person is well, healthy, no symptoms.”
In addition, people living in the same household as those who are in home quarantine are also at low risk of contracting the virus, according to the DOH. However, if any of the quarantined individuals develop symptoms and test positive for the virus, health officials said they would then follow up with close contacts and family members.
Honolulu is one of 11 airports where all flights to the U.S. from China are being funneled. The U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak, placing a temporary ban on foreign nationals who recently traveled to the country — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Although direct flights from China to Hawaii have been suspended, travelers who have been in China are coming to Hawaii via other countries. Any travelers who have been to Hubei within the last two weeks or are considered high-risk are required to be quarantined at Pearl Harbor.
Meanwhile, two asylum seekers from China trying to flee from the deadly virus, also known as 2019-nCoV, were recently taken into custody at the airport by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after trying to enter Hawaii.
Health officials are urging residents to start practicing habits to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, including getting flu shots, washing hands, covering coughs and staying home when sick.
“This traveler we should all take as an alert for us that the risk is real. The potential is that at some point down the road, we will see community transmission. So, how do we protect ourselves? We protect ourselves starting now,” Park said, “practicing what sounds like very simple measures. We all seriously need to start thinking about that to help our community.”