Process for coronavirus testing is in place, Allegheny County health officials say
Allegheny County Health Department holds public briefing on coronavirus
Well, good morning, everybody. And welcome. I’m Dr Lee Harris and chairman of the Board of Health infectious diseases physician at the University of Pittsburgh. There’s been a great deal of information out in the public about the outbreak of Corona virus disease, or cove it 19 that was first detected in Wuhan City in the Hub, a province of China, in December. A month ago, the secretary of HHS declared a public health emergency to help the nation’s health care community in preparing for the outbreak. Due to the great interest in in the public health importance of this issue and the various questions related to the virus and the potential for transmission in Allegheny County, we want to share the steps that the Health Department is taking along with its partners to prepare for any community spread of covert 19 as well as what residents conduce. Now. A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes at the Health department to assure that we’re prepared for a possible outbreak. Our personnel have been closely monitoring the outbreak and I’ve been involved in frequent brief briefings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Pennsylvania Department of Health Health Department leadership has been providing briefings and guidance to many of our community partners, including emergency service providers like Chief Matt Brown from the counting and director Wendell Historic from the city of Pittsburgh, who are here with us today. First, let me turn the podium over to Dr Kristin Mertz Ah, public health physician and medical epidemiologist for the health Department, to discuss what we know today about Cove in 19 Dr Mertz. While some Corona viruses are common throughout the world and cause mild illness, Cove in 19 is a new disease caused by a new Corona virus not previously seen before in humans. It is a respiratory disease with symptoms including cough fever, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. There’s no vaccine and no approved medications to treat it. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. Although the current likelihood of local exposures remained low, we will remain village in and exploring cop possible cases in utilizing the capabilities of the state public Health Lab, which will begin testing this week. Case numbers air changing rapidly to date. There over 30 confirmed cases of Cove in 19 that were detected by the U. S. Health system, including two deaths in the United States. Several cases were acquired in the community, with no known travel and no known contact to infected persons. Another 47 people who have been repatriated to the U. S, including those who were on a cruise ship, have been diagnosed with Cove in 19 at this time. There are no confirmed cases of Cove in 19 in Pennsylvania, but we expect to see some as we expand testing. At present, most people at risk of Contracting Cove in 19 or those who have traveled to places where the virus is occurring on a widespread basis, certain people will have increased risk of infection. Health care workers caring for patients with Cove in 19 and other close contacts of persons with Cove in 19. Some people are more risk for severe outcomes, including the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions. While the risk of this virus to the public is low at this time, everyone conduce their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat. First. It’s currently flew in respiratory disease season, and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs and taking flue anti virals. If prescribed, Reducing the burden of the disease from flu will help. Free up resource is, if needed for cove in 19. Stay home When you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more. Won’t be more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than dick obeyed. 19 related virus. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw it in the trash can. If you don’t have a tissue coffin to your elbow or your sleeve, wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom before eating after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, used an alcohol based hand sanitizer with 16 to 90% alcohol. Consider refraining from handshake so it’s not to pass. Germs routinely clean frequently touch surfaces and objects. High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, door knobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, bones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. Use a household cleaning spray your wife according to the label instructions. Routine use of these measures by individuals and their families can go a long way to prevent the spread of illness and hopeless respond to an outbreak. Thank you. Thanks very much, Dr Mertz, as I mentioned, much of the health department’s work related to the virus in the past few months has been in providing briefings and guidance to many of our partners in the community. So next I invite Dr Lu and Brink, the department’s chief epidemiologist, to the podium to share those steps with you. Frank. Thanks, Dr Harrison. So, as mentioned in the A, C H. D. Has been in daily communication with state and federal health agencies related to this virus. As new information becomes available, the Allegheny County Health Department updates its information of guidance. Accordingly, we’ve been communicating and responding to questions from stakeholders, particularly our healthcare providers and health care systems, and those organizations and agencies that have access to large populations. These include schools and universities, businesses and restaurants and transportation agencies, including the Port Authority and Airport Authority. As many of you know, we’ve been working closely with the airport authorities since this virus was first identified. Although our airport has no direct flights from China, to Pittsburgh International. The leadership there has been extremely proactive in ensuring that is doing all it can to limit exposure. There again is there are no direct flights from China. All travelers arriving from flights originating in China are screened prior to their arrival in Pittsburgh. We’re also working closely with the Port Authority as a means to share information on how residents can protect themselves, but to also ensure their preparation in the event that we see community transmission of covert 19 here for all businesses and organizations were recommending that the CDC is guidance is followed. This includes actively encouraging sick employees to stay home or separating sick employees, emphasizing coffin sneeze etiquette in hand hygiene, performing routine cleaning of frequently touch surfaces and providing disposable wipes for those surfaces to be used by employees. Those traveling should also take certain steps. Be certain that you are aware of where restrictions are currently in place. The CDC is currently recommending that individuals avoid non essential travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. Additionally, precautions should be practised. Try travelling to Hong Kong or Japan. The CDC has recommended that all travelers reconsider cruise trip voyages into or within Asia. The department continues to work with key sectors, including hospitals and with E. M s agencies on potential responses and countermeasures. If there is community spread locally, there will be a coordinated effort with state and federal health agencies to implement procedures to help stop the spread. Emergency Service’s in Allegheny County has already implemented measures to identify whether 911 callers seeking help Our risk of having Cove in 19 and as you’ve seen responders have been provided with enhanced personal protection kids, should they encounter someone who has or could have the virus? We thank Allegheny County Emergency Service’s chief Matt Brown in Pittsburgh. Public safety director Wendell has Rich for being here today for their continued partnership with us and for their work to ensure everyone’s safety. Thank you so much. Thanks very much, Dr Brink. So finally, we’re committed to ensuring that we continue to provide the most updated information on the Corona virus. Week urged the public and our partners to use our website as a source of information. There are constant updates on the page, which also directs links to Centers for disease Control. The U. R L for the website is www dot allegheny county dot us forward slash you guessed it Corona virus On that page, you can also sign up for Allegheny alerts when selecting would alert you want to receive select Corona virus under the Health Department Options, A C H D will be providing an update through that system every day at 11 a.m. Finally, if there’s any breaking news about Corona virus, the Health Department will push that information out to the public as soon as possible through press conferences, press releases, website updates and post on its social media channels or alerts through Allegheny alerts. So with that, that is the end of our comments, and we have a few minutes to address any questions. Kristen. So, um, if we do have widespread, uh, Cove in 19 hear those kinds of decisions. Decisions about school closures, of course, will be made by the school district, but they will be made in conjunction with the health department. Universities are free to make their own recommendations for their students, but there is guidance coming out from CDC to help them, you know, have have recommendations that air consistent with the national recommendations case by case basis. Yeah, correct, Yes. Testing. So testing so far has been relatively limited because of the distribution of test kits. But that is changing. So you have CDC pushing out the test kits to the health Department’s state health department. Um, and then FDA is now expanding the ability of hospitals to also do testing for this virus. When tests are available. Then, uh, then they can be requested. But it’s gonna be based on criteria, um, that are put forth. But testing the bottom line is that increased testing will become available in the near future. It be the envy of the discretion of the health care facility or health care provider. Yes, I I just want to say one thing about testing in the public health system. So currently, Onley Public health system labs, air testing and to get tested at the state Health department Now you need approval from the local health department. So if providers have a suspected case they need to contact us, we need to approve it, and then it goes to the state lab and the process is probably about 24 hours. It takes 4 to 6 hours to run the test, but it has to get there, et cetera. There. What Chris did you want to comment on communications with Emerson? Pittsburgh? So we are in touch with the university’s here, and we are relaying to them the national guidelines and Argh! Idling guidelines. But they, as I said, are free to make recommendations for their own students. That work, how you rejected. So yeah, we are not. The local health departments in the state health department are not commenting on how many people are being evaluated or tested. We will only report on confirmed cases, but never just because it’s it’s something that changes every I mean the number evaluated. It is just hard to keep up with. We get many, many calls from the public and the providers. We don’t think there’s any really need to know. Unless there’s a confirmed case like there’s no reason the public needs to know who’s testing negative for the disease. Stories? No. Why? Right now, where this virus lingering there. Thanks. What What? You know, proposed awful. You’re from, uh so please, do you think that there is cases here that we’re testing more bail? We don’t know for sure, but We know that because of the limited testing so far that they’re most likely has been community transmission in a lot of different places that we haven’t recognized yet And that, well, we don’t know. And that’s what we’ll find out as testing becomes more available. Um, but this is a rapidly changing situation. As test kits become more widely available, I suspect we’re gonna find more committee transmission. We’ll have it here. So we are looking into getting to test kids. It probably won’t be for a few months for us to get them here unless things change. That was the last update I hear. But the state Health department is starting to test this week, and we can get them to that. We can get specimens to the state Health Department overnight, and, like Dr Harrison said, hospitals will start to come on board very quickly. And commercial labs might come on quickly as well. Yeah, right. Supposed, um, I don’t think it’ll be a huge difference. I mean, we would have to approve the, um testing in any case, either way, state or here, So it might be a little bit faster if it were here, but then we have the hospitals in the commercial labs too. Here? Um, yeah. It’s so, um, it’s my understanding that hospitals will start to develop their own testing. Um, but I don’t know. I don’t know if this is a rapidly changing situation when the FDA has recently liberalized the ability of hostiles to do that. So county more about their work going responses about what they’ve been doing theirs. What monitor? No. Here, there they try. We we don’t have any direct flights from any of those countries into Pittsburgh International. However, we do have quarantine stations that CDC has infrastructure through the larger airports. And, um, there were records Is thio where various people have come from? So those records are maintained for CDC quarantine. The closest one is Philadelphia. Hey, over what? Here today. But you said that your morning with the airport here. His arm. What is their work here? Thank you. We have had multiple conversations with him about incoming travelers and what they would deal with ill individuals. These are routine procedures that have been going on more or less for the past decade. We’ve been coordinating responses with them since that time development there wait just based on general information on the liberalization of the ability of facilities to do that, I have no more specific information at this point about specific hospitals. So we are in touch with long term care facilities via conference calls and e mails, and we are sharing CDC is guidance with them on how to respond to an outbreak of novel Corona virus disease. Um, there are luckily a lot of the measures that would be applicant bull to an outbreak of covert. 19 are similar to the outbreak measures for flu. So, as you know, long term care facilities have quite a few flu outbreaks, and so they’re pretty well versed and how to respond. So, um, so we’re sort of reviewing all the procedures with them and there’s gearing up Thio, you know, even more stricter. Same type of co hoarding patients who are ill, um, testing paid contacts, reducing activities, keeping ill people in their room, checking staff, keeping ill staff out of work. No visitors sign it. You know there’s a whole host, a long list of responses that long term care facilities can take to reduce the spread in their in their facility. Well, right now, we have no known cases, so we have no specific recommendations for elderly. I mean, we do want all elderly to get a flu shot. Uhm, that will help cut down on the confusion of whether they have flu or whether him Corona virus if fewer people are getting flu. But obviously they are at greater risk. They’re gonna have to be constantly hand washing and, you know, be more on guard because the death rate in the elderly is higher than it is in. There are a number of different companies and governmental agencies that are working on vaccines. But typically, you know, getting a vaccine tested for safety and immune response on and then feel tested for, hopefully doesn’t actually protect against disease. That could take a while. So clearly this season, it’s unlikely we’re gonna have a vaccine. But there’s a lot of people working on that. Oh, the police. No. Um, it began about February, the beginning of February. We started preparing through E. M s, both Web based and hard copy training for all the first responders in the city of Pittsburgh. Uh, since that time, we’ve also been working with our partners in the county with the Suburban E. M s and all that Chief Brown handle that. Ah, we have pushed up to the police officers 1000 p personal protection equipment bags, which include eye protection, which includes include the N 95 mask, which includes sets of gloves and hand sanitizer. Fire. We’ve pushed additional personal protection equipment. They’ve already had it with their day to day operations, his first responders and, of course, CMS. We have worked with schedules. If in fact ah, an onslaught of call volume arises, we’re going to put additional medic units on the road. We may also put, in addition to the medic units, an assessment team to be able to go out and assess individuals that are complaining of signs and symptoms of either the flu of the Corona virus. So it’s an all inclusive approach throughout the city. In addition, even the school crossing guards have been provided bags of personal protection equipment as well as our park rangers were also working. Our main goal is number one to make sure that the first responder community is safe and to make sure that they are able to do their jobs. I think that we mail already of seeing that the individuals the first responders that responded in the state of Washington have been quarantined. I believe it’s Ah, 12 to 20 firefighters have been quarantined, so we have to prepare for that. And we have a plan in place that if we have to well, cancel past days, will add additional personnel and increase the hours worked members by a face. Things going by you called, We have not. Every day officers were told that, you know public safety is unpredictable, and every day they come to work, they know that they could be held over. The fortunate thing about this. It’s not a it’s not a fast moving in are definition that, you know things are gonna change in a matter of two or three hours. Hopefully, we’ll have 12 hours, 24 hours notice of putting on additional personnel. Chief Brown, do you have anything additional ad? No, I would just add to the director’s comments from a county wide perspective. There 30 m s agencies with throughout the county as well as literally hundreds of other public safety entities working through our National Incident Management System. the name system or E S f for S F eight function, which is really health of Medical section. From an emerging management perspective, that is where we would get the guidance. Moving forward is public safety, and certainly we would. We will function that that position. With the help of the Allegheny County Health Department, we have put together working with City of Pittsburgh and Auriemma’s partners initial responders training for all the emergency agencies throughout the county. This was done weeks ago on DWI even began pulling the trigger much sooner as it relates to Nam won and screening questions based on 911 calls that were coming in. That was almost a month ago. So again, we continue to transition Azaz. It changes, moving forward again. Speaking to the director’s comments, these air public safety professionals that, quite frankly are dealing with this and many other challenging things every day. So I don’t think that we’re doing anything drastically different from what they deal with on a routine day. What my understanding in the communities we have a large stockpile of protective personal protective equipment, and that’s not an issue at this point for our health care providers and first responders. Kristen, Did you want to make any additional comments? Yeah, I would just say that the general public has no need to wear a face mask at this time, so we would appreciate if people didn’t horde face masks and leave them for when people are sick. The people who need to wear them are patients who have respiratory symptoms, and they wear them to keep from spewing germs out. So there’s no need for the well public to wear them. Wash your is the health department, making it orders. We’ve asked our business partners Thio, to think about putting that out in the lobbies, including, you know, any public venues to increase availability of hand sanitizer. And we are working on some mechanisms to make it available. Not two individuals from the public, but to those public venues. Beautiful. Did you have a comment about the previous question? It’s gonna say that soap and water should be available to everyone, so sing Happy birthday twice. That should get you for 20 seconds. I’ve also heard that if you do baby Shark Song, you got to get to the father. So those air pieces of advice. Great advice. I’m sorry. What was the question? Great. Yes. So we have been in touch with the jail, and we have sent them some guidance. And we will be sending them supplies for their health care workers Should they start to get cases? Obviously have any objections. Is here potentially. See, it’s ready area. My Nobody knows. I think, um, once testing becomes more widely available, have a pretty good idea. But there’s no way to know with any certainty exactly when we’re gonna see transmission here. But again, I think the general notion is that there’s probably a lot of transmission going on in the country not specifically here we don’t know about yet. Did you guys want to comment? Not at this time is there’s no evidence of any community transmission here in Allegheny County. And as I said, we’re in frequent contact with the state and we’ll have a really good idea should something like that began. So at this time, we are recommending again that hand washing the good, you know, cough and sneeze hygiene. And, you know, Please don’t go to those events. If you are sick. We are working with those venues Thio to talk about additional hand sanitizer. But is Dr Marx mentioned Washing your hands really is the way to go wave time for one more question made of saves the right where you burned out your staff’s on one second. What is well, so that’s a really good point. So, um, right now, the biggest risk in the community is influenza. We’re in the middle. We’re probably starting to tail down, but we’re in the middle of the flu season. There have been somewhere on the order of 5000 deaths from flew in this country so far this year. Over 100 Children have died from influenza so far this year. So in terms of current risk, the best thing you can do is get flu vaccine. Flu vaccine varies by strained by year, but it’s it’s not a perfect vaccine, but it’s quite effective in preventing severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death. So flu vaccine is really important. And here yeah, yeah, As of today, we have over 11,000 flu cases reported. And of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because a lot of people never get tested, never go to their providers we have. I think it’s 127 hospitalizations and 12 deaths to date. This blue season. Okay, Thank you very much, everybody.
Process for coronavirus testing is in place, Allegheny County health officials say
Allegheny County Health Department holds public briefing on coronavirus
The Allegheny County Health Department held a public briefing Monday to share information about coronavirus and the county’s local preparations.Click the video player above to watch a full replay of the briefing.Symptoms of people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath.If a patient in Allegheny County needs to be tested for the virus, there is a process in place. The patient’s healthcare provider must notify the county health department, which will determine whether to refer the patient to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for testing.The state health department expects to have one of its own labs ready to do the testing this week. In the meantime, Pennsylvania relies on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to do the testing for it.That doesn’t mean mass testing in Pennsylvania by any means. The criteria is very focused right now.”If they’ve been to an affected country or they’ve been in close contact with a case and they develop symptoms, they should not go to the emergency department. They should call ahead,” said Dr. Kristen Mertz, a medical epidemiologist with the Allegheny County Health Department. “We don’t want people going into health care settings with these symptoms and being a possible case.”County health department doctor speaks on coronavirus: Watch the video below.So far, testing for possible Pennsylvania cases is “sent straight to the CDC,” according to a state health department spokeswoman who said the state is focused on getting its testing lab up and running this week. In the meantime, it still has the CDC to rely on.”Currently, only public health system labs are testing, and to get tested at the state health department now, you need approval from the local health department,” said Mertz. “So if providers have a suspected case, they need to contact us, we need to approve it, then it goes to the state lab.”Dr. Lee Harrison, chair of the county board of health, said testing by hospitals and commercial labs could come quickly.”Testing so far has been relatively limited because of the distribution of test kits, but that is changing,” said Harrison, who is also an infectious diseases physician at the University of Pittsburgh. “So you have CDC pushing out the health kits to the state health departments, and the FDA is now expanding the capability of hospitals to also do testing for this virus.”While there are no confirmed cases in Pennsylvania, county health officials said they are prepared to see cases in the future.”The department continues to work with key sectors, including hospitals and with EMS agencies on potential responses and countermeasures,” said Dr. LuAnn Brink, chief epidemiologist with the county health department. “If there is community spread locally, there will be a coordinated effort with state and federal health agencies to implement procedures to help stop the spread.”
The Allegheny County Health Department held a public briefing Monday to share information about coronavirus and the county’s local preparations.
Click the video player above to watch a full replay of the briefing.
Symptoms of people who have been exposed can include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
If a patient in Allegheny County needs to be tested for the virus, there is a process in place. The patient’s healthcare provider must notify the county health department, which will determine whether to refer the patient to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for testing.
The state health department expects to have one of its own labs ready to do the testing this week. In the meantime, Pennsylvania relies on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to do the testing for it.
That doesn’t mean mass testing in Pennsylvania by any means. The criteria is very focused right now.
“If they’ve been to an affected country or they’ve been in close contact with a case and they develop symptoms, they should not go to the emergency department. They should call ahead,” said Dr. Kristen Mertz, a medical epidemiologist with the Allegheny County Health Department. “We don’t want people going into health care settings with these symptoms and being a possible case.”
County health department doctor speaks on coronavirus: Watch the video below.
So far, testing for possible Pennsylvania cases is “sent straight to the CDC,” according to a state health department spokeswoman who said the state is focused on getting its testing lab up and running this week. In the meantime, it still has the CDC to rely on.
“Currently, only public health system labs are testing, and to get tested at the state health department now, you need approval from the local health department,” said Mertz. “So if providers have a suspected case, they need to contact us, we need to approve it, then it goes to the state lab.”
Dr. Lee Harrison, chair of the county board of health, said testing by hospitals and commercial labs could come quickly.
“Testing so far has been relatively limited because of the distribution of test kits, but that is changing,” said Harrison, who is also an infectious diseases physician at the University of Pittsburgh. “So you have CDC pushing out the health kits to the state health departments, and the FDA is now expanding the capability of hospitals to also do testing for this virus.”
While there are no confirmed cases in Pennsylvania, county health officials said they are prepared to see cases in the future.
“The department continues to work with key sectors, including hospitals and with EMS agencies on potential responses and countermeasures,” said Dr. LuAnn Brink, chief epidemiologist with the county health department. “If there is community spread locally, there will be a coordinated effort with state and federal health agencies to implement procedures to help stop the spread.”