While there have been no reported cases of coronavirus in Montana, public health and hospital officials in Flathead County are telling residents to prepare for the possibility that it does make an appearance.
As of March 2, there were about 100 people who had been treated in the United States for coronavirus, with six fatalities. All six deaths have been in the Seattle area, including three from a single nursing home. There have been more than 90,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths worldwide since the epidemic began in China.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, specifically close contact through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Locally, officials with the Flathead City-County Health Department, Kalispell Regional Healthcare, North Valley Hospital and others have been meeting regularly to prepare for the potential arrival of the virus locally. KRH Chief Medical Officer Doug Nelson said the meetings have been productive and offered simple advice to the public.
“Don’t panic, be smart and stay tuned,” he said.
Nelson said people should take measures to protect themselves like they would for any normal flu season by washing their hands, covering their mouth when they cough and staying home if their sick. He also urged people to stay tuned with news services and social media for more information from local, state and federal health officials.
Flathead City-County Public Health Officer Hillary Hanson echoed the idea that people should wash their hands frequently. She also suggested that people stock up on items they might need if they have to stay home for an extended period of time, including food and medications. People should also figure out if they are able to work from home.
“People should not panic, but they should spend some time thinking about what they would need for themselves and their family should coronavirus come to Flathead County,” she said.
Hanson said there are plans in place should officials find someone locally with coronavirus. Officials are also keeping an eye on people who have recently traveled in China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan. The CDC is warning people who have traveled in any of those places within the last two weeks, they may have some level of restrictions on their movement for two weeks after leaving the area.