Our Role in Monitoring the Coronavirus Outbreak
This is a rapidly evolving situation. This blog post is accurate as of 11:01 AM on 1/31/2020. Please visit our coronavirus page for the latest information.
In the past few weeks, a novel coronavirus has spread from Wuhan, China to the United States and over a dozen other countries. There are thousands of cases across the globe, but risk of getting the virus remains low in the United States.
While there are currently no cases in Dane County, staffers at Public Health Madison & Dane County are actively monitoring the outbreak and working closely with state and local partners to prepare in case anyone in our community tests positive for the coronavirus.
But what happens if someone in Dane County does get sick from the virus? Protecting the public from health threats is one of our core responsibilities, and it’s a job we take very seriously. In public health, we plan, train, and practice for novel viruses just like this one.
This is how we learn about and respond to potential cases:
- A patient who has symptoms of the virus reports to a doctor or healthcare professional.
- The doctor asks about recent travel and learns they were in China within 14 days of getting sick.
- The doctor notifies the state health department (the Wisconsin Department of Health Services) and our agency (Public Health Madison & Dane County) about the possible case. This person is now called a “person under investigation (PUI).”
- The doctor takes samples from the patient and sends them to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The patient is tested for 2019 coronavirus and also more common viruses, like influenza.
- While we’re waiting to hear back on the test results, the patient is isolated from other people just in case they have the virus and could spread it. We check in with them regularly to monitor their symptoms and make sure they are following isolation instructions.
- If the testing shows the patient does not have the virus, the investigation is complete. If the testing reveals a patient does have the virus, we follow-up directly with the patient. We ask them about everyone they had close contact with. If their symptoms are mild and they’re in isolation at home, we check in with them daily to make sure they are getting the care they need until they are well again. If their symptoms are severe or get worse, they will be cared for at a hospital following appropriate infection control procedures.
- We would follow-up with anyone who has been in close contact with a person who has coronavirus. We will instruct them on what to do if they develop symptoms.
Teams across the globe are studying the virus, and we are learning more information every day. The monitoring and prevention measures we have in place in the United States are working to prevent spread of the virus.
There are steps everyone can take to prevent spread of respiratory diseases, including the cold, flu, and even coronaviruses: wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cough and sneeze into tissues, get your flu shot, and stay home when you’re sick.
For more information, visit the CDC’s coronavirus webpage.