Travelers Arriving From China Are Under Isolation For Novel Coronavirus In Jefferson County

Feb 13, 2020

Credit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

About 50 people in Jefferson County are in isolation and are self-monitoring for symptoms of the novel coronavirus after returning from trips to mainland China, according to the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.

There are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Kentucky and no cases of anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed case of the virus, said Rui Zhao, Louisville Metro communicable disease epidemiologist.

“Since we have had no evidence of anyone who has come from the province, the risk is extremely small for all individuals living in Kentucky right now,” Zhao said.

Fourteen people in the United States have so far tested positive for the virus the World Health Organization has named COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus is a respiratory illness whose symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC believes symptoms may appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Currently, 41 states and territories have a total of 427 people under investigation, according to the CDC. No one in Kentucky is currently considered to be under “investigation.”

Expanded Monitoring 

Those under the 14-day isolation period have signed an agreement with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services that restricts movement. Once a day, they’re required to text, call or email their temperatures to monitor for signs of fever, Zhou said.

The isolation is not a quarantine, which is enforced through a court order, but violators could “theoretically” be put in jail for violating the terms of the agreement, Zhou said.

“But these individuals do not meet that level of risk for non-compliance,” he said.

The presidential proclamation released January 31 expanded monitoring criteria to individuals who’ve recently traveled to mainland China, Zhou said. Under the new guidelines, the CDC is passing along information to the state, who is passing it along to local governments.

Zhou said there is a “fair amount of travel” between Louisville and China, but not compared to major travel hubs. He said some of the travel comes from international students.

The closest confirmed cases of the virus are in Illinois, where a man in his 60’s contracted the virus from his spouse. It was the first person to person spread of the virus in the U.S.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that 200 Georgia residents are quarantined in their homes after returning from trips to China. The Chicago Tribune has reported on an Indiana family who have voluntarily quarantined themselves after returning from China last month.

As of Thursday, the World Health Organization is reporting 45,171 cases of the virus, the vast majority of which are in China. Outside of China, 24 countries are reporting 441 cases and one death.

The U.S. government has also taken unprecedented steps to prevent the spread of the virus including suspending entry of foreign nationals who have visited China in the last 14 days. The CDC is conducting enhanced screening for people entering the country at five airports, while enhancing capacity at 20 ports of entry with CDC medical screening stations.

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport is not engaging in enhanced screening measures because it’s not a primary port of entry, said Paul Kern, public health preparedness administrator.

Kern said the Louisville department of public health is meeting weekly to communicate news on the virus, and is talking with healthcare providers and the airport.

There is a disease outbreak support plan in place to manage any number of communicable diseases, like the Hepatitis A outbreak in 2018. The city also stores a fleet of 10 trailers stocked with supplies inside the Louisville Mega Cavern, including gloves, masks and surgical splash shields, he said.

“We’re always prepared to take on public health emergencies that occur within the metro area,” Kern said adding, “The best prevention is wash your hands with soap and water.”