News & Features

Local Health Officials Say Flathead Prepared for Coronavirus Despite Low Risk

Kalispell Regional Healthcare and Flathead City-County Health Department have protocols in case of outbreak

As confirmed cases of the new coronavirus continue to climb in the U.S., local health officials say they’re prepared for such an outbreak even if the risk of one remains low.

The outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel strain of coronavirus was first detected last month in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, and thousands of cases have since been confirmed inside the country. Meanwhile, a growing number of cases are being identified at other international locations, including the United States.

At this time, health officials say there are no patients in Flathead County or the state of Montana with confirmed novel coronavirus, according to a Jan. 30 press release from Kalispell Regional Healthcare and the Flathead City-County Health Department, which stresses that officials “have health protocols in place to screen for such cases and initiate emergency preparedness protocols, if needed.”

“With only six confirmed cases in the United States, this area is at a very low risk for novel coronavirus spread,” Dr. Jeffrey Tjaden, an infectious disease physician at Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH), stated Jan. 30, before the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. had risen to 11. “Nevertheless, we are always prepared for outbreaks like these and we will continue to take all necessary precautionary measures to ensure our community’s safety.”

Health officials identified several steps community members can take to protect their health:

If you have not been in east Asia or southeast Asia since early January, the risk of having the virus is very low. There are many cases of the common cold and flu in the Flathead area with similar symptoms. “If someone is ill, it’s critically important not to assume that they have this novel strain of coronavirus,” the release states.

If you have traveled to China in the last 14 days and are experiencing symptoms of a cold, flu or pneumonia (coughing, fever, chills, chest pain when you breathe or cough, and difficulty breathing), call your health care provider immediately.

It is currently cold and influenza season. Practice good hygiene and self-care — get plenty of rest, wash your hands often, and cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when you sneeze or cough.

The Flathead City-County Health Department has established an information-only hotline for the community to learn updates, which can be reached at (406) 751-8188.

“Public health officials and local hospitals are working together to ensure the community’s safety in the event that we would see a confirmed case in the area,” Lisa Dennison, infectious disease supervisor at the Flathead City-County Health Department, stated in the press release. “In the event we have a local issue, we can act quickly to identify, isolate and protect our community.”