Imperial County’s public health officer, physician Stephen Munday, addresses the media at a Feb. 4 press conference in El Centro.It was organized by the Imperial County Public Health Department to address the coronavirus flu strain that has spread globally from China. | Corissa Ibarra photo
IMPERIAL COUNTY — While the 2019 novel coronavirus dominates headlines, no cases have been reported anywhere near Imperial County, whose residents meanwhile battle a much more familiar foe—the common flu, a top health official said.
Despite thousands of
cases and hundreds of deaths from coronavirus in China, the U.S. risk remains
low due to precautions put in place on a global level, Imperial County’s public
health officer, physician Stephen Munday, said.
understand that this can be a stressful time for the residents of Imperial
County with everything they are hearing about the situation in China,” he stated
in a press release.
Public Health Department held a Feb. 4 press conference on the coronavirus at
the County Administration Center in El Centro. Later, a press release was
“I want our
residents to know that our public health staff is doing everything it can to
prevent the illness from spreading in our community,” Munday stated in the
“I encourage you to continue to show compassion and care to all our neighbors. It is important to quash actions that could perpetuate a stigma attached to the 2019 novel coronavirus,” he added.
public health emergency by the World Health Organization, coronavirus has been
largely contained to China by public health officials there. However, it has
spread rapidly, infecting more than 20,000 people worldwide in just six weeks,
Munday said during a separate interview.
More than 20,000
cases have been identified in China, most emanating from Wuhan City in the
Hubei Province, where Chinese public health officials have quarantined the
region. However, 159 confirmed cases have been found in 23 other countries,
including 11 confirmed cases in the United States, all as of Feb. 4, according
to the World Health Organization’s latest situational report.
been six confirmed cases in California, including two in San Benito County, two
in Santa Clara County, one in Los Angeles County and one in Orange County. None
of the cases have been the result of person-to-person contact on U.S. soil;
rather, Munday said they were U.S. citizens that had recently traveled to China
and returned home.
As far as
what is surrounding Imperial County, there have been no confirmed cases of
coronavirus detected in Mexico so far and just one case confirmed in Arizona,
as of Feb. 5.
has so far killed 426 people, with just one death outside China. That single
death was in the Philippines, according to WHO.
thanks to drastic measures taken by the Chinese government and medical
communities to confine the virus to its country, as well as unprecedented
cooperation and actions at the global, federal, state and local levels, the
spread of the disease has been largely kept in check.
since Jan. 31, the only people being allowed into the United States through its
land, air and seaports of entry who have been to China recently are U.S.
citizens and legal U.S. residents and their family members. All others have
been barred from entering the country, Munday said.
public health officials have been in contact with not only Department of
Homeland Security officials in the region, but with their public health
counterparts in Mexicali as part of the surveillance related to the virus,
officials, he said, also have been in close dialogue with local officials at El
Centro Regional Medical Center, Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District and
Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo as part of their normal flu/respiratory illness
surveillance directives during flu season, he said.
Security officials did not immediately return calls for comment when contacted
Symptoms of the
coronavirus (2019-nCoV) present much like the conventional flu, including
fevers, cough and other signs of respiratory illness. As such, there are
procedures and surveillance methods in place locally meant to protect the
public and track the kinds of viruses infecting the public, Munday added.
He said this season for the
common flu has been particularly virulent, with cases of influenza B coming on
strong early in the season. Now health officials are beginning to see influenza
B strains give way to a surge in influenza A cases.
As of Feb. 5, there have been many more cases of common flu confirmed in Imperial County in the 2019-20 flu season, compared to 2018-19, according to the county Public Health website.
There has been one
confirmed flu death in Imperial County this season, with a toddler succumbing
to the symptoms of influenza B in December. There have been 149 flu deaths in
California this year and 68 pediatric deaths due to the flu throughout the
United States, according to county Public Health.
Munday advised the local
public to continue to do what it is doing to safeguard against the conventional
influenza virus, including getting vaccinated; washing
hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with
unwashed hands; staying home when ill; avoiding close contact with others who
are ill; covering sneezes and coughs; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently
conventional flu infects and kills many more people throughout the world this
time of year, Munday said addressing novel coronavirus is still very important
due to how fast it has spread.
new virus to people, Munday said human beings still have not had a chance to
develop antibodies to the coronavirus, meaning it can spread fast. Much like
SARS, the Middle Eastern flu and what was formerly known as “swine flu,” or
H1N1 virus, they were all viruses that began in animals and spread to humans,
who had few natural defenses to the strains.
people will develop antibodies, but there is no way to tell on what time frame
that occurs; every virus is different, Munday said.
For general information about the 2019 novel coronavirus the public may visit the Imperial County Public Health Department website at www.icphd.org or visit the California Department of Public Health website at www.cdph.ca.gov. The public is encouraged to follow the health department official social media platforms for the most updated information.