WILMINGTON — In her report to the local board of health, the Clinton County Health District’s medical director tried to put the coronavirus outbreak in historical context and to keep it in perspective.
Terry Kerr Holten, M.D., spoke about COVID-19 at Monday’s regular monthly meeting of the Clinton County Board of Health, as did Clinton County Health Commissioner Pamela Walker-Bauer. That same day Wall Street suffered its worst losses in two years, attributed to fears of a global coronavirus pandemic.
Holten said corona viruses were first identified in animals in the 1930s, and were first identified in humans in the 1960s.
“But because it appeared that they caused basically mild respiratory illness, there really wasn’t much interest in finding out anything more about them [at the time],” she said.
That changed in 2002-03 when the SARS coronavirus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) caused serious disease. During that nine-month outbreak — which like COVID-19 started in China — there were about 8,000 cases with about a 10 percent mortality rate, according to Holten.
Then in 2012 there was the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which as the name suggests, originated in the Middle East. It involved a total of about 1,700 cases with a 36 percent mortality rate.
She compared the numbers of SARS and MERS with those of COVID-19 as reported Feb. 21 by the Center for Disease Control. As of that date there were about 77,000 cases with 2,445 deaths, or a 3.2 percent mortality rate.
In other words, there already have been a lot more cases this time around, but the incidence of death with COVID-19 has been much less than the other two coronaviruses.
Even so, when the mortality rate for an infectious disease is 3.2 percent, it’s regarded as high, said Holten.
Keeping up with the comparisons, the medical director said a really bad influenza season has a mortality rate of 1 or 2 percent.
Walker-Bauer followed up Holten’s report by noting there are zero cases of COVID-19 in Ohio. She spoke about the late January screening of two Miami University students in southwest Ohio whose tests turned out negative for the virus.
The health commissioner said that while officials were waiting on the university students’ results, the health district here communicated with the Butler County Health District just in case.
“We know that they might need some backup support. So that’s where we would have come in,” Walker-Bauer said.
Backup support could include sending nurses or answering a hotline number, she indicated.
After the meeting Monday, Clinton County Health District’s Director of Nursing Monica Wood said the takeaway message is that they are prepared.
“We encourage folks to wash their hands. And if they are sick to stay home, to cover your cough, and just take those general precautionary measures as you would with any other illness such as the flu,” Wood said.
The Ohio Department of Health has a written document in place that speaks to limitations that can be placed on movement regarding isolation and quarantine which are used to stop or limit the spread of disease, she said. It was established in 2004.
Local health departments implement limitations on movement for their own jurisdiction. The Ohio Department of Health implements the limitations when infectious diseases cross jurisdictions or affect transportation systems, according to the document.
The members of the Clinton County Board of Health are Chair Terri Thobaben, Dr. Janet Gick, Registered Nurse Jane Vandevort, Carla Kaser, and Brian Larrick.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.