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Coronavirus: Local Health Officials Emphasize Prevention over Panic

On March 2, state officials and the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed the first local cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) involving two residents of Fulton County who live in the same household.

One, a 56-year old male, had recently been in Milan, Italy for a conference. Upon returning to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport he was asymptomatic. But days later both he and his 15-year old son began to show signs of the illness. They visited their physician who then alerted the CDC.

After testing positive, both have been isolated in their home and have since shown improvement. A spouse and younger child are also in the home and are being monitored. Both children are homeschooled, and are not believed to have put any other children at risk.

Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, interim director of the Fulton County Board of Health is emphasizing that COVID-19 is a travel-related illness and area residents should be focused on prevention rather than panic. Important tips to follow from the Georgia Department of Public Health and Fulton County Board of Health include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

While screenings are being done at the Atlanta airport, Dr. Ford says that’s only one method of detecting individuals who have coronavirus. She encourages travelers to be vigilant in monitoring their own health.

COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms appear within two to fourteen days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing.

Travelers who develop fever with cough and shortness of breath within fourteen days of their travel, or any others who may have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19 should remain at home and call their health care provider or local health department right away.

Those with symptoms are also urged to call first before going to a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care center and make health providers aware of their recent travel or their symptoms.

Despite the cases of the COVID-19 in Georgia, health offiicials want residents to be assured that the risk is still low.

“We knew that Georgia would likely have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and we planned for it. The immediate risk of COVID-19 to the general public, however, remains low at this time,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, MD, MPH, DPH Commissioner. “I cannot emphasize enough the need for all Georgians to follow the simple precautions that DPH always urges to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”

Photo: Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, interim director of the Fulton County Board of Health gives updates on two local cases of coronavirus.

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