HELENA — Lewis and Clark Public Health (LCPH) are taking steps to prepare for the possibility of the new strain of coronavirus making its way to Montana.
Eric Merchant, administrator of disease control and prevention at LCPH, said the risk of the virus being in the county is currently low, but LCPH wants to make sure they are prepared and vigilant for it.
“Our goal is to identify quickly, contain and stop the sustained transmission of this virus,” said Merchant.
Much like influenza, there are many different strains of coronavirus. Some strains result in a common cold, while others can cause a much more serious illness such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The novel coronavirus first reported in China, 2019-nCoV, has caused thousands of respiratory infections and hundreds of deaths worldwide since last December, but no cases have been confirmed in Montana at this time.
Health officials have already met with representatives from St. Peter’s Health, the Helena Regional Airport, local schools and state and city partners to provide more information and encourage monitoring.
Merchant said outbreaks are ultimately stopped at the local level.
“Each person needs to do their part as well to protect themselves,” said Merchant. “If you protect yourself against the flu, you’re going to protect yourself against the coronavirus if it were to show up on our doorstep.”
To prevent the spread of flu, or other germs like coronavirus:
• Avoid contact with sick people;
• Stay home if you’re sick;
• Cover your coughs and sneezes;
• Wash your hands often with soap and water;
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.
Merchant added if a person has a respiratory infection and fever after interacting with someone who has recently traveled to China, they should contact their health providers as soon as possible.
More information about the coronavirus can be found here.