Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Friday, Feb. 21, 2020  
This page will be updated regularly as information becomes available. 

Exclamamtion Alert  Emerging Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

DHEC is closely monitoring a rapidly emerging outbreak of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) first identified in the city of Wuhan, China. Cases have been confirmed in several other countries, including the United States. As cases are confirmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is posting updates on its website that include summaries outlining case numbers and a map and list of affected states and countries. At this time, no cases have been identified in South Carolina.

Overview

As of Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, the CDC has confirmed 14 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., including two cases in which the virus had spread between two people. It is likely there will be more cases reported in the U.S.

  • On Jan. 30, 2020, the CDC confirmed that COVID-19 had spread between two people in the U.S., representing the first instance of person-to-person spread with this new virus here.
  • To date, two instances of person-to-person spread with this virus in the U.S. have been detected, in both cases after close, prolonged contact with a returned traveler from Wuhan, China.
  • Previously, all confirmed U.S. cases had been associated with travel to Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by this novel coronavirus has been ongoing since December 2019.
  • Finding person-to-person spread in the U.S. of COVID-19 is not surprising. CDC and DHEC have been preparing for the introduction of this virus in the United States for weeks.
  • Limited person-to-person spread with COVID-19 has been seen among close contacts of infected travelers in other countries where imported cases from China have been detected.
  • On Jan. 31, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency for the U.S.
  • Also on Jan. 31, the President of the U.S. signed a presidential  “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus."
  • Investigations are underway to determine if others were potentially exposed to the virus.
  • No cases have been currently identified in South Carolina.

About coronaviruses and the current COVID-19 outbreak

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). COVID-19 was originally thought to be spreading from animal to person, but a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.

Outbreaks of novel virus infections are public health concerns. The possible risk of COVID-19 infections in South Carolina depends on multiple factors, including the likelihood of travelers from affected areas, how easily the virus may spread from person to person and others of which are still unknown with COVID-19. COVID-19 is not wide-spread in the U.S., and the CDC continues to believe the risk to the American public remains low at this time.

Prevention

We understand that residents may have concerns about how the virus may impact South Carolinians. Our ongoing goal remains prevention. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus. DHEC and the CDC currently recommend avoiding all nonessential travel to China.

No additional precautions are recommended for the public at this time, beyond the simple daily precautions that everyone should always take steps to stop the spread of illness, including:

  • Getting the flu vaccine
  • Washing your hands
  • Covering your cough
  • Appropriately disposing tissues and other items that you've sneezed or coughed into

How CDC and DHEC are working together

CDC has been proactively preparing for the introduction of COVID-19 in the U.S. for weeks, including alerting clinicians about how to detect, report and diagnose COVID-19 and prevent spread and providing guidance for travelers.

As the state’s lead public health agency, DHEC is taking proactive steps to be prepared for potential cases in South Carolina, including remaining updated on and following the latest CDC recommendations related to surveillance, evaluation, and response.

CDC Outbreak Response Activities

CDC and DHEC are mounting an aggressive public health response strategy to identify potential cases early, assure they receive appropriate care and prevent additional spread when possible.

CDC and DHEC recommend avoiding all nonessential travel to China. In addition, the CDC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are implementing enhanced health screenings to detect travelers with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing when entering the U.S.

  • CDC has issued Health Alerts, including guidance on key matters such as how to identify individuals who should be considered persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 infection and reporting to local/state health departments. DHEC also shared the CDC’s alert with those in South Carolina enrolled to receive Health Alerts.
  • CDC has developed guidance outlining appropriate precautions for healthcare workers caring for ill patients in health care settings and homes of people with COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization.
  • On Jan. 31, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency for the U.S.

DHEC Response Activities

No cases of the COVID-19 have been identified at this time. However, DHEC has taken the following proactive steps to protect the health of the public:

  • Continues to monitor CDC developments and guidance daily.
  • Developed tools for the investigation of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases and provided training to epidemiology staff across the state to investigate and report cases.
  • Communicated information to hospital laboratories, infection preventionists, and physicians to keep them informed about how to identify and report possible cases to DHEC.
  • Developed this webpage to provide information and other resources about COVID-19 for the public.
  • Held an informational briefing for legislators and reporters on COVID-19 preparations and activities in South Carolina on Jan. 29, 2020.
  • With Governor McMaster, convened a meeting with the Public Health Emergency Plan Committee to discuss updates on the virus on Jan. 31, 2020.
  • Provided an update for hospital executives at the South Carolina Hospital Association annual meeting on Feb. 5, 2020.
  • Briefed the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control on COVID-19 preparations and activities in South Carolina on Feb. 13, 2020.

Learn more

For more information, visit the CDC’s 2019 COVID-19 webpage. Additional information can also be found at the below links:

For the Public

For Businesses

For Healthcare Professionals

For Healthcare Facilities

Colleges & Universities

Schools & Childcare Centers

 

 

 

 

Tags

COVID-19 Viruses Statewide