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BREAKING NEWS UPDATE, Feb. 1: VC Public Health Department issues public safety alert over coronavirus after VC patient's coronavirus test results pending

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Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin

By Austin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter

A Ventura County resident is being tested for the coronavirus, according to the Ventura County Public Health Department. As of Saturday, Feb. 1, the patient was in isolation until the results are provided. There have been no confirmed cases in Ventura County.
A second person in Ventura County was tested for the virus, but lab results showed no sign of the disease, according to the Public Health Department.
In a Ventura County Public Health Department safety alert released Saturday, Feb. 1,  it was reported that the local department is working closely with the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control to prepare for and respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
According to the press release:
"The Public Health Department is communicating with local healthcare providers on how to safely and effectively evaluate ill people who have been to China. The Public Health Department will continue to monitor the situation, work with partners to identify any possible cases, provide information and consultation to ensure that possible cases are managed safely, support laboratory testing, and implement recommendations from the CDC. Currently, the health risk from the novel coronavirus to the general public is low.
"The types of symptoms caused by this virus are still being learned. Some patients have had mild symptoms while a small number have experienced more severe symptoms, and a few have died. Cases have been diagnosed in several countries in Asia. Three cases have been identified in California and two have been identified in Illinois. The three cases in California have been identified in Los Angeles County, Orange County and Santa Clara County.
"Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals and humans. In rare cases, animal coronaviruses can be transmitted from animals to humans. The 2019 novel coronavirus is a newly discovered coronavirus that has not been previously detected in animals or humans. 
"The source of the novel coronavirus is not yet known. Typically, human coronaviruses cause mild-to-moderate respiratory illness. Symptoms are very similar to the flu, including runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath.
"Healthcare providers will assess patients, and if novel coronavirus infection is possible, they will contact the Communicable Disease division at the Public Health Department. At this time, the only laboratory testing for the novel coronavirus is being done at the CDC laboratory. 
"If a patient is suspected to be infected with the novel coronavirus, public health agencies will work with healthcare providers to ensure CDC testing can be completed.
"Anyone who has recently traveled to China, and become ill with fever, cough or shortness of breath is advised by the Public Health Department to contact a health care provider and to communicate their travel history.
"As with any virus, especially during the flu season, the Public Health Department reminds people of the steps they can take to protect their health and those around them:
"— Wash hands with soap and water.
"— Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
"— Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
"— If someone does become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough, they should stay away from work, school or other people to avoid spreading illness.
For the most up-to-date information regarding the 2019 novel coronavirus, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
On Jan. 31, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to the coronavirus. The declaration may enable the CDC director to access the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund (when funds are so appropriated) or apply for an Emergency Use Authorization for medical countermeasures needed for the public health response, for example, a new test kit to detect a novel virus, according to the CDC website."
As a result, foreign nationals who have traveled in China are temporarily prevented from entering the United States.
On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declaring coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin told the Ojai Valley News on Thursday that he had twice sent alerts to area medical providers — “which is an unusual number of alerts for us."
The Los Angeles Times reported that people flying in from China will go through seven airports that will have health screenings for passengers from China. Those airports are LAX, San Francisco International, New York's JFK, Chicago's O'Hare and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International.
The LA Times also reported that America Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines will suspend flights to and from China.
The flulike virus originated in Wuhan, China, and as of Thursday had already killed 171 people in China in under a month. More than 8,200 there have been confirmed to be infected.
Levin said the Ventura County medical professionals’ “routine of management of patients with infectious diseases, at least infectious diseases of concern, is strong. If such a patient is sent into them, they’re going to isolate them immediately and make sure that the healthcare workers are all wearing the correct protective equipment.”
He said his department will also do its best to locate all contacts of a potential case, so if the patient ultimately has coronavirus, all those people will be evaluated as well.
Levin said: “If the patient has any hint of being one of these cases, our Communicable Disease Department gathers that information and calls the Centers for Disease Control and finds out if the patient meets their criteria for testing. If the patient does, the specimens are collected from that patient and are very quickly sent to the CDC for testing.”
Physicians are on high alert for patients with respiratory illness and/or fever who have  either been to Wuhan, or come into contact with a documented case of coronavirus.
In Ventura County, there are people who are returning from trips worldwide, and some have been to Wuhan, Levin said. 
He said: “The vast majority of people who have been to the affected area are aware of it. The first thing that they do if they start to develop symptoms of respiratory illness or respiratory illness and fever, is they almost invariably call their provider and tell them. So the public is on guard for this as well.”
 For more information on coronavirus, he advised people visit the CDC ( https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html ) and CDPH (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/nCOV2019.aspx )websites.