TRANSFORMING HEALTH — Pennsylvania’s health department is preparing for the expected arrival of COVID-19, the disease caused by a rapidly spreading member of the coronavirus family.
The respiratory disease — marked by fever, cough and shortness of breath — has already sickened more than 81,000 people and killed more than 2,700 people worldwide.
There are 57 U.S. residents confirmed to have the disease, including about 40 who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, said Department of Health Secretary Doctor Rachel Levine.
Nobody has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, but the state expects that to change, and is bracing for “community spread” of the coronavirus, Levine said.
“It seems to be more communicable than influenza and it seems to lead to a higher fatality rate than influenza,” she said, adding that older people and those with others serious medical problems are those most at risk for serious complications.
The health department’s emergency operations center is monitoring people who returned from China for symptoms, Levine said. She declined to say how many people the center is monitoring.
The health department will notify the public if there are any confirmed cases, she said. A person could be infected with the coronavirus for up to two weeks before they show symptoms of COVID-19.
The state has stockpiles of protective equipment for medical workers and is seeking additional resources from the federal government, Levine said.
She recommended that people follow guidelines on the state’s family emergency plan and follow basic precautions for preventing the spread of diseases.
“Pennsylvanians should continue to help stop the spread of viruses by washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces and staying home if you are sick.”