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Douglas County Health Department says to prepare for potential coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 6:21 PM, Feb 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 19:21:37-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Douglas County Health Department is monitoring the coronavirus spread closely.

On Thursday afternoon, officials spoke with members of the media about what families can do to prevent the spread of the disease.

"We know it is best to prepare and now is potentially the time to prepare," said Adi Pour, the health director at the Douglas County Health Department.

Worldwide there are more than 82,000 cases of coronavirus, with 60 confirmed cases in the United States with no reported deaths. Health officials are urging families, schools and businesses to have pandemic plans in place.

"What would we do if individuals are sick and only half of our staff can come," Pour said. "Each operation, each business, should have a pandemic influenza plan."

Douglas County Health officials say families should have a long-term plan for coronavirus. This includes have a two-week supply of food, beverages and medicine at your house.

"Those type of measures, I think, would be very appropriate to think about today," Pour said.

Since the end of January, 84 travelers have reported to county officials that they've returned from China, Japan or Italy. Seventy-one are either currently being monitored or are done with the 14 day period of being monitored by the county.

"This is an important issue and we're asking you to self-report to us because we want to help you prevent transmission in your community," said Dr. Anne O'Keefe, a senior epidemiologist.

"We do a quick risk assessment with them and we enroll them in a survey twice a day which asks for their symptoms and temperatures," said Justin Frederick, supervisor of communicable disease epidemiology.

In its daily briefing, UNMC and Nebraska Medicine officials said the 15 people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in town for coronavirus monitoring are doing well and discussions about a timetable for testing are in early stages. The 15 people are now in the National Quarantine Unit, which is a lower-level containment unit compared to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit.

"It is a new virus and we don't have any immunity. None of us have any immunity against the virus," Pour said.

County health officials are in constant communications with other departments. Dr. Pour said on a 10 point scale, the cornonavirus fear factor should be around a 2 or 3.

"If you are prepared, you don't need to worry," Pour said. "It's those who are not prepared who should worry."

Health experts said people should do all the things they do during flu season such as washing hands and covering mouths after coughing.

The Douglas County cornonavirus information line is (402)-444-3400.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman's story in the above video.