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Message from the Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Muntu Davis, MD, MPH

Feb 24, 2020

Novel Coronavirus – What it is and How We Can Prevent It

As many of you are already aware, there is an outbreak of pneumonia in mainland China that has been identified to be caused by a novel (NEW) coronavirus (2019-nCoV). There are ongoing case and contact investigations by many countries to learn more about the outbreak, and the situation continues to evolve. .

Novel Coronavirus is new to humans, and we are learning more each day about how easily it spreads and how long it takes for people to become sick. The disease caused by this virus was recently named coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated “COVID-19”). In an effort to keep you informed, I have detailed below what we do know about novel coronavirus, including its origins, symptoms, and ways you can prevent becoming infected.

What is novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Many of them infect animals, but some coronaviruses from animals can evolve (change) into a new human coronavirus that can spread from person-to-person. This is what happened with the current novel coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV. Diseases from coronaviruses in people typically cause mild to moderate illness, like the common cold. Some, like the SARS or MERS viruses, cause serious infections like pneumonia.
This is a new virus called a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) because it is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The symptoms of novel coronavirus infection include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Health officials across the world are actively collecting information about clinical manifestations of this new virus and who is at risk for infection.

How and where did this novel coronavirus infection originate?

Since December 2019, Chinese authorities have identified tens of thousands of cases, and over 1000 of deaths, starting with an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The number of cases of this coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to increase, mostly in mainland China, and includes cases in many different countries.
In the United States, novel coronavirus infections have been confirmed in 15 people who traveled to or came from Wuhan City or were a close contact of returned travelers from Wuhan who were infected with novel coronavirus. This includes one traveler from Wuhan who was traveling through LAX in Los Angeles County, as of February 20. This person was safely transported from the airport to a local healthcare facility for a medical evaluation, and Public Health is following up with all close contacts.

What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus?

The symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, which can progress to severe illness requiring hospitalization. Health officials across the world are actively collecting information about clinical manifestations of this new virus, about how easily and at what point this new virus can spread to another person, and who is at risk for infection.
If you have traveled from mainland China and develop any of these symptoms within 14 days of your return, you should seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms and your recent travel.
At this time, CDC is estimating an exposure to infection (or incubation period) period of 2-14 days. However, as this situation evolves and more information is gathered as new cases are identified and investigated, we will confirm our understanding of this novel coronavirus.

How is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) treated?

There is no vaccine for novel coronavirus, so please be aware of scam products for sale that make false claims to prevent or treat this new infection. People who traveled to or from Wuhan or were in close contact with someone who was infected with novel coronavirus and develop a fever or respiratory symptoms within 14 days of their travel or exposure should seek medical care. There is no current specific treatment for disease caused by a novel coronavirus, although scientists are working on testing medication options. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and effective treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition.

Should people wear masks?

Most are most effective when worn by people who are ill and by healthcare workers and those directly caring for people who are ill. Currently CDC does not recommend the wearing of masks. The wearing of masks is common in many countries, and we advise the public to exercise their own discretion in their use. As always, Public Health recommends that persons who are ill stay home to limit transmission of all viruses.

What can you do to protect yourself?

As with other respiratory illnesses, there are steps that everyone can take daily to reduce the risk of getting sick or infecting others with circulating respiratory viruses, like influenza. You should:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands). Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer right after.
  • Facemasks are most effective when used by people who are sick and by health care workers and those providing direct care to someone who is sick.
  • Get a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.

If you or someone you know has traveled to mainland China and feel sick within 14 days of last day there, please:

  • Stay home and avoid contact with others, except for seeking medical care.
  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after wiping your nose and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your hand.

For health care professionals, it is recommended that you:

  • Ask all patients reporting to your facility about recent travel.
  • Follow standard environmental infection control procedures for healthcare settings.
  • Post signs that ask patients to and ensure supplies are available for them to follow standard hygiene practices, such as:
    • Washing hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not on available.
    • Covering their nose and mouth with their elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
    • Avoiding touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands.
    • Limiting close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
    • Stay away from others when you are sick.

As always, our priority is to keep you and your families healthy and informed. For more information about Novel Coronavirus, I encourage you to visit our Coronavirus web page, and follow our social media channels for updates.


Muntu Davis, MD, MPH

Los Angeles County Health Officer


Previous Messages

10/25/19 - In Los Angeles County the flu season runs from October to the end of March 2020, and this season could be a particularly bad one. Text

09/06/19 - As the father of a child nearing middle school, one of my biggest daily worries is the health and safety of my child. A concern I think we share. And now, after decades of progress in the fight against tobacco use and cigarette smoking, a new health threat has emerged on the horizon. Text

11/20/18 - It’s November! Almost time for the holidays. Have you gotten your influenza (“flu”) immunization? The traditional season for influenza is here. Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Text

06/18/18 - Preventing and treating dental disease is essential to maintaining overall health and well-being at every stage of life. Children need their baby teeth to eat and speak properly, and to help keep the space in their jaw for adult teeth to settle in.Text

03/23/18 - Infant mortality, defined as the death of a baby before her or his first birthday, is one of the most important measures of the health of a community. Improvements in the ability of all infants to survive the first year of life has been a long-standingText

01/30/18 - Influenza, often referred to as "the flu," has increased significantly in recent weeks and is now widespread in the state of California and Los Angeles County.Text

11/21/17 - The influenza season is upon us once again. In the US, the flu season occurs during the fall and winter months with peak activity usually occurring from December through February. Text

10/03/17 - On September 19, 2017, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health declared a local outbreak of hepatitis A occurring among persons who are homeless or actively use drugs. Text

03/24/17 - Every year, World TB Day is celebrated on March 24th to commemorate the day in 1882 that Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and identified it as the cause of the disease tuberculosis (TB). Text

02/01/17 - We are now in the middle of the 2016-2017 flu season. A sharp increase in the number of cases has been seen throughout California, and more recently in Southern California. Even though the flu season is underway, it is still not too late to get the vaccine. Text

12/23/16 - Families often travel during the holidays to visit relatives or go on a vacation out of town. These trips are great opportunities to unplug from daily life, spend quality time together with family, and share new experiences. Text

11/09/16 - Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the most commonly reported communicable diseases and rates are rising in the United States, California and Los Angeles County (LAC). In LAC, there were nearly 75,000 STD cases reported to the Department of Public Health (DPH) in 2015. Text

8/12/16 - Climate change is a source of concern for many, especially as warmer, drier weather is observed throughout the county. This affects us in many ways. While the mild El Niño season helped fill many of California’s reservoirs, water is still a major concern. We continue to experience record-breaking temperatures. In addition, in the past few weeks, a number of fires have caused many square miles of brush and property to burn. Text

7/1/16 - In the last two months, 7 cases of invasive meningococcal disease have been reported within the Los Angeles County Public Health jurisdiction. Additional cases have been reported in surrounding jurisdictions.

6/13/16 - June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. The day is a great reminder to get tested for people who don’t know their HIV status or who may have been exposed to HIV since their last test.

4/12/16 - Alcohol is a huge continuing problem that affects many lives and can tear families apart. Alcohol is also the second leading cause of premature death and disability in Los Angeles County, contributing to more than 1000 deaths every year

2/10/16 - There has been a lot of information on Zika in the news lately. Below are some ways we can address this disease to keep our friends and family safe, and to prevent Zika transmission in our County.

1/14/16 - January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. It’s a great time to learn more about cervical cancer and ways to prevent this disease from affecting family and friends.

12/08/15 - I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season! I hope many of you are able to spend time with family and friends while enjoying and sharing your cultural traditions. To help you and your loved ones celebrate safely over the next few weeks, here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind:

11/02/15 - November 16-22, 2015 is Get Smart Week. The goal of Get Smart Week is to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance.

10/09/15 - The 2015-2016 influenza season has started. Make sure you and your family are protected! Get your influenza vaccine now. Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that causes mild to serious illness.

09/08/15 - Prescription drugs play a critical role in treating people when they are sick or feel pain. It is also very important to properly dispose of all unused or expired medications. Unused medication can pose a major health and safety risk if left in the home.

08/10/15 - Last Thursday the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a case of human plague in California. The patient lives in LA County and was hospitalized for the illness after a family trip to Yosemite State National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Officials are still investigating where the individual may have contracted the disease.

07/06/15 - I am happy to report that new Ebola cases in West Africa have significantly declined due to the extraordinary efforts by healthcare professionals to care for infected individuals and reduce community transmission. The number of new weekly cases in West Africa has remained below 30 for several weeks and efforts remain strong to bring the epidemic to a closure as soon as possible.

04/22/15 - Progress continues to be made as the world responds to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Although the situation has improved greatly and the weekly number of new cases has fallen well below 100, we must remain vigilant until the number of new cases in affected countries reaches zero. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola.

03/17/15 - The world response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has decreased the number of new cases occurring there and there is hope that the epidemic can be stopped sometime this year. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola. We maintain our surveillance and actively monitor a small number of travelers each day who have

11/24/14 - Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Mali to the list of Ebola-affected countries, which continues to include Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. To date, more than 15,000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,420 related deaths worldwide. In the United States, a second Ebola-related death occurred last Monday after Dr. Martin Salia was transferred to Nebraska Medical Center from Sierra Leone for medical care following several days of illness. His tragic passing highlights the critical importance of early intervention and care in recovery.

11/17/14 - Ebola outbreaks continue to affect Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa with some new cases reported in Mali. While the rate of new cases in Liberia and Guinea has leveled off, the rate of rise in Sierra Leone continues to accelerate. To date, approximately 14, 000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,160 related deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to monitor the situation and coordinate relief efforts to control the spread of infection. It is important to note that only two cases of Ebola have been exported from West Africa to other parts of the world, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the strategies that are in place to prevent spread. Those two cases are, of course, the case that was diagnosed in Dallas on September 30, and the more recent case in a physician in New York City who has recovered and been released.

11/10/14 - The Department of Public Health continues to coordinate efforts to ensure we have an effective strategy to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. As part of these ongoing efforts, we met last week with the Hospital Association of Southern California and the California Association for Health Facilities. The meetings were held jointly with LA County Emergency Medical Services and provided hospitals and long-term health care facilities with an update on Ebola, our current activities, and response plans for LA County. Each meeting was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and facilitate coordination with all health care providers who may play a role in identifying and treating an individual with Ebola.

11/4/14 - The State Health Officer from the California Department of Public Health recently issued a risk-based quarantine order for any individuals coming into California who had contact with a person confirmed with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will comply with the State’s order.
Text | Video: English | En Español

10/28/14 - Last week a doctor based in New York, who had treated patients with Ebola in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola. In Los Angeles County there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, and we remain prepared to respond should a case happen here.
Text | Video: English | En Español

10/21/14 - As the news continues to evolve around Ebola, I want to reassure all residents in Los Angeles County that, to date, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in Los Angeles County. This past week, we have worked diligently to update and strengthen our plans to address Ebola. We are more prepared today than we were yesterday, and we will be more prepared tomorrow than we are today.
Text | Video: English | En Español

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