The coronavirus and Wyoming's preparation
Three of Wyoming's neighbors — Colorado, Nebraska and Utah — have confirmed cases. A hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, is treating several patients who contracted it elsewhere.
March 11, 2020
Three of Wyoming's neighbors — Colorado, Nebraska and Utah — have confirmed cases. A hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, is treating several patients who contracted it elsewhere. Several states have declared states of emergency. The number of U.S. cases jumped over the past weekend alone, and Congress approved $8.3 billion in funding to fight the spread of the disease.
What is the coronavirus? How does it spread? What are Wyoming agencies and officials doing to prepare for an outbreak here? The Star-Tribune sets out to answer those questions.
The virus colloquially known as the coronavirus is technically called COVID-19. The "coronavirus" designation actually refers to a broader range of diseases that are all part of the same viral family, including the common cold. That's why it's called the "novel coronavirus" or just COVID-19, which refers to the disease it causes.
COVID-19 is a respiratory condition. Patients with the disease may have a fever, shortness of breath or a cough. Those symptoms appear within two weeks of exposure for those who will contract the disease. The disease can be mild or severe. It has killed roughly 3,800 worldwide.
Initially, the disease was linked to a market in China. But the disease spread to those who had no contact with that area, leading investigators to conclude COVID-19 could be spread from person to person. The cases in the U.S., for instance, were initially linked to international travel. But an outbreak tied to a nursing home in Washington state indicated community spread here, as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe the disease is spread by people in close contact with one another or by an infected person coughing or sneezing, which spreads the disease to others.
"The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community ('community spread') in some affected geographic areas," the CDC wrote.
The CDC recommends avoiding contact with anyone who has symptoms or has traveled to the hardest-hit areas, like Italy, China or South Korea. Don't touch your face, and stay home if you're sick. If you're an employer, allow your sick employees to stay home. Cover your face with a tissue or something similar when you sneeze or cough. Disinfect frequently.
Perhaps most basically, wash your hands. If you're unaware of how to do that most effectively, the CDC has an entire webpage devoted to the topic.
While it appears that most people can contract the disease, most will not die of it. The most at-risk populations are the elderly and those with chronic conditions, particularly those that have weakened one's immune system.
Health sources, including state and county health departments in Wyoming, have regularly sent out updates, both to the state and to individual medical providers. The CDC's website has expansive information that is updated frequently. So, too, does the state Health Department. News outlets such as the New York Times and the Guardian have regularly updating live blogs. Stick to news outlets that quote experts from the CDC or the World Health Organizations, rather than outlets that quote non-experts.
In Wyoming, you could request a screening by your doctor, who would then forward it to the state lab for testing, according to the Health Department. There are other labs that could do the testing. The state's lab won't charge to run the test, though that's not say to say your medical provider won't charge for providing it.