State, local health officials prepare for potential coronavirus impacts in SC

VIDEO: State, local health officials prepare for potential coronavirus impacts in SC

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control continues to monitor for potential cases related to COVID-19, however none have been identified in South Carolina so far. The Coronavirus has sparked concern though as health officials confirm the first US case with no known links to travel or other patients.

President Donald Trump says the nation is totally prepared to respond to the growing coronavirus threat, but the CDC says a patient in California may be the first incident of “community transmission.”

Experts believe the patient was likely infected by someone in the general public.

In South Carolina, DHEC officials say their ongoing goal remains prevention.

“This is a rapidly evolving public health event, and DHEC takes every new infectious disease very seriously. In addition to monitoring CDC developments and daily guidance, we are taking deliberate steps to protect the health of the public,” DHEC officials said Thursday.

The state agency stressed the CDC’s opinion that the risk to the American public remains low at this time.

However, DHEC has been in communication with hospitals, businesses, schools and state agencies across the state about prevention resources.

The uncertainly surrounding the virus’s trajectory in the US hasn’t hindered local hospitals, like Trident Medical Center, from being in a state of readiness and preparation.

“Our parent company has provided very detailed screening information, so that’s been shared with our medical staff, but really we are addressing it simultaneously, readiness for corona the same we do for seasonal influenza,” said Trident Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lee Biggs. “This is a unique variant of a foe in healthcare that we’ve seen year over year, but we don’t have some of the convenient measures of having it already preprogrammed into our vaccination strategy. So, it’s more of a, yea we know it’s out there, but we’ll address it the same way we do day in and day out with influenza, which is high volume this time of the year as well.”

Trident is screening patients for any Corona symptoms. However, officials urge that the virus has not reached a level to cause panic. Instead, it’s the seasonal flu that has more medical professionals concerned right now.

“There’s huge risk just with seasonal influenza that’s actually greater than this novel Coronavirus,” Biggs said. “I think the name itself is a bit concerning to people. To call something novel, new and unknow. The fact that there’s not an easy shot. There’s not an antibiotic. Bacterial infections that are treatable with antibiotics versus viral conditions which are not, which we’d have to rely on symptomatic treatment or vaccines. That has caused some concern, but we would treat seasonal influenza and corona with the same strategies.”

Biggs said another unique feature of the Coronavirus that has made headlines is it’s impacting a different sector of the population than what health officials usually see.

“The data coming out of the hot zones is telling us it’s not the typical, seasonal flu extremes of age, the very young, the very old. There’s a consistent theme of those with existing medical conditions, maybe they are cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune compromised. But the age range seems to be in the mid to later 50s in these hot zones that they are seeing,” Biggs said. “Why would one person succumb to this versus another? It has to do with state of health. We see that in most conditions. That those are in good states of health are less likely to succumb to these pathogens.”

Trident officials advise that prevention techniques, including washing your hands, are the best way to protect yourself.

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