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Kings County health officials monitor COVID-19
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Kings County health officials monitor COVID-19

HANFORD — As cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, continue to spread, Kings County health officials are keeping a close eye on its progress.

COVID-19 is a severe respiratory infection virus similar to the flu, said Dr. Milton Teske, health officer for the Kings County Department of Public Health. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

The difference between the two viruses is that COVID-19 can become much more severe and lead to pneumonia, which can be fatal, Teske said.

As of Wednesday, Teske said there are no positive cases of COVID-19 in Kings County. However, he said there are several people who are being monitored due to their travel history.

Teske said those being monitored are voluntarily staying home and the department is keeping track of them regularly through phone calls. He said if symptoms develop, they will be tested.

The test for the disease includes a nasal swab and sometimes a throat swab, which are then taken to a lab to see if they test positive for the presence of the virus.

Teske said the most important thing people can do to prevent spread of the virus is for them to stay home if they feel sick at all, especially if they have fever, cough or an achy feeling. He said even if you feel like you can work, it’s better to just stay home to prevent spreading anything to someone else who may not be as healthy.

“Don’t go to work, don’t go to school, just stay home,” Teske said.

A simple way for people to protect themselves is hand washing. Teske said soap and water is most effective, but hand sanitizer works as well.

Also, because the virus is highly infectious and spreads easily through the community — much like SARS — Teske said social distancing and keeping away from close contact with others can help. This is why countries like Italy have implemented extensive lock downs.

In the U.S., major universities have closed campuses and large events have been postponed or canceled. Teske foresees more canceled or modified events and believes elementary schools and high schools will begin to close as well to avoid spread through classrooms.

California currently has over 30 cases of community spread of the coronavirus, meaning health officials can’t connect the cases to travel and believe those infected must have gotten it doing something in their normal daily activities. None of these cases are in the Central Valley.

Right now, the Kings County Department of Public Health has not recommended closing any schools, but because information is fluid and can change at any time, Teske does not rule out the possibility in the future.

Teske said the department is keeping up to date on all the information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government entities. Going forward, he said the department will try to do what’s best to keep life as normal as possible while also protecting the health of the public.

The issue with COVID-19 is that it is unknown territory, Teske said. He said health officials are learning and trying different efforts from scratch, and a lot of questions still remain — like if it is a seasonal virus like the flu.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Teske said.

On the bright side, Teske said places like Hong King and Singapore seem to be controlling and slowing down the spread of COVID-19 successfully through various measures.

Locally, Teske said the Kings County Department of Public Health is working with Adventist Health to set up a specific site where those with symptoms of the coronavirus can get tested, so they don’t overwhelm doctors’ offices or emergency rooms.

He said they hope to get something set up in the next day or two.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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