Butte-Silver Bow Health Department, Partners Vigilant Regarding Novel Coronavirus
By Karen Sullivan
Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer
The coronavirus event is a fluid situation, but as of this writing (Monday, March 2), there are still no known cases of the virus in Montana.
However, the number of COVID-19 cases throughout the globe and the United States continues to grow. Should the virus reach Montana, the state of Montana and the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department and its partners are preparing.
The Health Department has received inquiries in regard to testing for the virus. The Health Department does not perform diagnostic testing for respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. The department’s role, rather, is to coordinate testing of individuals who meet certain criteria for a virus. The criteria for COVID-19 testing keep changing, but testing is currently limited to those returning from traveling from affected areas, or to those having close contact with an infected individual.
People with novel coronavirus symptoms – which include fever, cough, and shortness of breath – should call their healthcare provider, and inform the provider of symptoms and their recent travel history and/or contact with a confirmed case. If the provider believes testing to be warranted, the provider then would contact the Health Department with the patient’s information; we would in turn contact the patient to determine if they meet criteria for testing and proceed from there. As of this moment, testing samples are still being sent to the CDC, but the laboratory at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services should be able to conduct testing by Friday, March 6.
In regard to testing, if community transmission begins to occur in Montana and Butte-Silver Bow, testing protocols may change. Again, the situation is very fluid.
Here are steps people can take to prepare for COVID-19 or any respiratory illness:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than into your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask:
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for healthcare workers and people who are caring for someone in a close setting, such as at home or in a healthcare facility.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, but also before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Singing the “Happy Birthday Song” twice takes about 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The Health Department’s lead on this situation, public health nurse Karen Maloughney, will update the Butte-Silver Bow Board of Health at its monthly meeting Wednesday morning. The Health Department and its partners will meet later Wednesday to plan next steps.
For those interested in more information, please call the Health Department’s public health hotline at 406-497-5008.