The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is cooperating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to respond to recent reports of a novel (new) coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people and others that circulate mostly among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Common symptoms in an infected person include a fever, cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Since December 2019, Chinese authorities preliminarily identified more than 45 human infections, including two deaths, associated with this novel (new) coronavirus in an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. In addition, novel coronavirus infections have been confirmed in three travelers who traveled to or came from Wuhan City. No cases have been identified in the United States. Because this is a novel virus, and there is a possibility of person to person spread, CDC, acting with an abundance of caution, will initiate screening of travelers from Wuhan City at JFK airport in NYC, SFO airport in San Francisco, and LAX airport in Los Angeles. These three airports have been selected because they are the initial U.S. destinations for the vast majority of travelers from Wuhan City.
Public Health will be assisting the CDC to ensure that travelers from Wuhan City that have a fever or respiratory illness symptoms upon arrival to LAX are appropriately screened, tested and receive care. Travelers from Wuhan City who are not ill upon arrival will be provided with information on symptoms and advised to seek care if they become ill while visiting LA County. While there is no cure for this virus, our hospital partners and clinical providers will be able to test and care for ill travelers effectively to minimize transmission and severe illness. Public Health issued a health advisory informing local healthcare providers in LA County of the current situation on January 8, 2020. Public Health will continue to provide updates and work with local healthcare providers as the situation evolves.
“Though we understand that the news of airport screenings can be unsettling, Public Health is encouraged by preliminary information from China that no infections have been identified among healthcare workers who have provided care for persons with this novel infection, suggesting that the virus may be of low transmissibility,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer. “Additional monitoring and investigation are needed to confirm this observation, as healthcare workers have had increased risk in certain previous coronavirus associated outbreaks (e.g. SARS and MERS). From what we know now, this doesn’t appear to be something that should affect the daily lives of the 10.4 million residents we serve.”
There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with this novel coronavirus, and investigations are ongoing in China. Based on current information, however, the risk from the novel coronavirus 2019 to spread in Los Angeles County residents is deemed to be very low at this time.
As the investigation proceeds, Public Health is staying in close communication with CDC regarding new information.
Public Health also urges individuals who have recently traveled to Wuhan City and who develop fever or respiratory symptoms, to contact their healthcare provider. Public Health requests that healthcare providers treating patients with respiratory symptoms ask these patients about their travel history to Wuhan, China and to report suspected novel coronavirus infections to Public Health.
Additional questions about the screening process should be directed to the CDC.
The Department of Public Health is committed to promoting health equity and ensuring optimal health and well-being for all 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,500 employees and has an annual budget of $1.2 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, please visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, and follow LA County Public Health on twitter, facebook, instagram and youtube.