WILMINGTON — At a meeting of county government department heads, the Clinton County Health District’s medical director drew some contrasts between the COVID-19 outbreak and a typical influenza season.
Terry Kerr Holten, M.D., gave the department heads and others a recap of the new coronavirus first identified in China in late 2019.
It spread quickly in China, she said, and over the course of January the number of cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan — regarded as the epicenter — was doubling every seven days, said Holten.
The initial reports from China seemed to indicate that the mortality rate was about 2 or 3 percent, Holten said. She went on to compare that figure to a typical influenza season which has a mortality rate of about 0.1 percent (1/10th of 1 percent).
A very severe influenza season has a mortality rate of 1 to 2 percent among those who get the flu, according to the medical director.
“So, 3 percent is pretty substantial. And you couple that with how rapidly the virus spread, it quickly became clear it was spreading person to person,” she said.
Holten spoke on Monday afternoon, and acknowledged it’s unknown how many people in the United States will be affected.
“The last I read, the estimates were that as many as 30 or 40 percent of the population could get sick with coronavirus. Of that number, as many as 5 percent of those could be hospitalized with the disease,” the doctor said.
In addition to the mortality rate, another contrast between the new coronavirus and the flu is that with influenza, there are medicines physicians can use to shorten the course of the illness, she said.
Clinton County Health Commissioner Pamela Walker-Bauer recommended the department heads make plans for a short-staffed office, and start thinking about who would fill particular roles.
Clinton County Health District’s Director of Nursing Monica Wood said people getting tested for COVID-19 may get tested in their vehicle rather than coming into the doctor’s office and exposing others.
She said mildly infected people should stay home.
“If you feel bad, stay home,” said Wood, explaining that would help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
She urged listeners to think about grandparents, and those who have a chronic illness “for whom it could be really debilitating if exposed.”
Clinton County Environmental Health Director Matt Johannes said don’t panic if hand sanitizers or Chlorox Disinfecting Wipes are all gone from store shelves, because soaps and bleaches will probably be available.
As a preventive measure, he recommended washing hands more frequently than usual, and using soap and hot water for 20 seconds or longer.
And for the time being, there is no reason to be offended if people don’t shake one another’s hands, he said.
A public health handout distributed at the meeting stated how to make a solution of bleach and water to sanitize dishes, utensils, food preparation counters and tables. One tablespoon of bleach per 1 gallon of water will give you a 50-200 ppm (parts per million) sanitizing solution.
The Ohio Department of Health hotline for the general public concerning COVID-19 is active from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. The phone number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (or 1-833-427-5634).
Walker-Bauer noted there is a new website in Ohio with the web address of coronavirus.ohio.gov . She also recommended utilizing the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a credible source for information.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.