Alva Review-Courier -

Woods County prepares for COVID-19


March 13, 2020

All around Woods County, organizations and individuals are turning their minds to preparing for the arrival of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

The Woods County Health Department is working under the guidance of Lanette Terry, RN, the district nurse manager for Beaver, Cimarron, Ellis, Dewey, Harper, Texas and Woodward counties.

"As an agency, we always have pandemic plans in place," Terry told the Review-Courier. These plans detail "what to do in special events, and how we prioritize services," among many other aspects of managing disease outbreaks.

"We do communicable disease investigations regularly, so this is just a new communicable disease that we're working in," she said. "The virus is one of the larger viruses, one of the heavier viruses. So when somebody coughs and sneezes it goes out maybe as far as six feet, but it's heavy and so it falls. It's not a virus that's floating in the air."

No Community Spread So Far

"Right now, the cases we have in the state are both travel-related," Terry said. "There's no community spread at this time."

By "community spread" she means the state has not had any cases that could not be traced back to a person traveling to an impacted area. When people begin testing positive for the virus without a known cause, that means that the virus has spread out into the community. That's when pandemic preparation efforts move from containment into a more active phase.

But we're not at that point yet.

"Right now we're providing guidance and education for schools and providers and other groups as far as measures they might want to take into account in their plans. Because, as you know, spring break is really creating a little angst for the schools – universities and high schools."

The main thing is to try to prevent community spread. This happens when people who don't realize they've got the virus go out and about, not knowing they're spreading the disease.

"If we can break transmission, we can stop the disease," she said. "It really is as simple as washing hands and not touching your face."

If You Start Feeling Flu-like Symptoms

The health department is also offering guidance to healthcare providers concerned that a patient may be infected, or wanting to know what steps to take in such an event. But Terry cautioned that right now Oklahomans are far more likely to be suffering from the flu, a cold or allergies than coronavirus.

"Remember that the regular flu is still circulating, and also that lots of Oklahomans have allergies. Or maybe you have a cold. We still have those things going on."

Terry recommended people who are sick with flu-like symptoms call their provider before heading into the clinic or doctor's office. That will allow the provider to make any necessary arrangements to protect the health of other patients and staff. The clinic or doctor's office may have the patient come in at a time when few other patients will be there, Terry suggested as one possibility, or they may have a separate entrance they can bring the patient through and straight into an examination room, she said.

Terry encourages people having flu-like symptoms to take their temperature a couple times a day. A high fever is one of the first symptoms of coronavirus.

"But the main thing is quarantine. If you've been exposed to a known case of coronavirus," she said, quarantine yourself for at least two weeks until you can be sure you haven't caught it.

People who do have even mild flu-like symptoms, especially if they have a fever, "should stay home and not go to social functions or school. Do it to protect others," she said.

But if you are over age 60, especially if you have health conditions like diabetes, heart disease or asthma, don't lollygag around if you start having flu symptoms. And while people with compromised health often get pneumonia shots regularly, that pneumonia vaccine may not protect you from getting pneumonia as a result of the coronavirus.

"The pneumonia shot protects against certain strains of pneumonia," she said, "and sometimes when it's a viral pneumonia, it's more complicated."

Ask the Health Department Nurses

The state has set up a phone bank that any member of the public can call to ask questions about the coronavirus.

"The phones are manned by our nurses," said Terry.

That toll-free number is 877-215-8336.

But Terry cautioned that information may change from one day to the next. "It's a very fluid event," she said. "It's changing all the time. If you called yesterday, today the answer might be different. It's a changing situation."


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