SIDNEY — Sidney City Council heard updated information on the cornavirus during Monday evening’s meeting.
Sidney-Shelby County Health Commissioner Steve Tostrick and Public Health Nurse Erica Lentz spoke to council members about the most up to date information available on COVID-19. Tostrick said the coronavirus was renamed COVID-19 because it is shorter. The World Health Organization announced the name change came due to a need to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.
Tostrick assured those present Monday evening the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is closely monitoring the disease, which was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Ohio remains at a low risk for this outbreak of respiratory illnesses, he said.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, there were no confirmed cases in Ohio, but by that afternoon, Tostrick said the number was changed to three confirmed cases. Each day around 2 p.m., updated information is made available by the CDC.
People infected with COVID-19 are entitled to remain anonymous, due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. To help prevent infection with COVID-19, Tostrick said people should take the same precautions one normally would during cold and flu season, including the following:
• Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with soapy water. If unavailable, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home while you are sick (except to visit a health care professional) and avoid close contact with others.
• Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
• Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals to ensure a healthy immune system.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Signs may appear between two to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC. Lentz explained the virus mimics symptoms of the flu. She said experts will consider factors such as fever, shortness of breathe and travel history, when considering if they should be tested for COVID-19.
Lentz advised those who feel sick to call their family doctor first before going to the hospital. The doctor will advise how to move forward. If immediate medical attention is not necessary, infected persons are advised to stay home and and self-quarantine.
When asked, Lentz said currently experts are saying people will not be infected from handling items shipped from China. The virus can last hours to several days on surfaces.
Tostrick reiterated that people should make a conscious effort to avoid touching their face and wash hands often. Also, people should also avoid using common place items, such as the water pitchers shared by council members at the meeting or pens multiple people have used at public places. He suggested to try to keep a 6-foot-distance from people, if possible, to avoid infected droplets of from people who sneeze or cough.
Tostrick noted health officials are seeing the ages of those who are infected decrease from 60-plus down to age 50 and up. Also, opersons with pre-existing medical conditions are at a higher risk. People who recently traveled to China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, or Italy, and people who care for patients with COVID-19 are at the highest risk, according to the ODH.
Addressing the virus had been in the planning stage, Tostrick said, and has now moved into the stage of spreading community awareness. Gov. Mike DeWine has been proactive in local efforts, he said, with the cancelling of many public events. Currently there are a small number of test kits available state-wide, but officials hope to receive more soon.
Tostrick and Lentz could not say if this virus was worse than others in the past such as SARS or H1N1, when asked, because it is still a new virus. They also said only time will tell if the virus will die down after warmer weather arrives.
For local information visit the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department website at http://www.shelbycountyhealthdept.org. For state-wide information, the Ohio Department of Health has activated a site dedicated to this subject at www.coronavirus.ohio.gov. And for national information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s has created a page dedicated to the virus at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
In other business, City Manager Mark Cundiff encouraged citizens to get out and vote in the March 17 election. He said, “Strong schools equal strong communities.”
Also attending Monday’s meeting were three Boy Scouts 0f Troop 66, who were asked by Mayor Mike Barhorst to stand, introduce themselves and tell what they learned.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.