(KPAX) Schools in Washington state are closing by the dozens as new coronavirus deaths were reported Monday.
Infectious disease specialists at Missoula City-County Health Department say it’s only a matter of time before Montana sees its first case. While there aren’t yet any known cases in the Treasure State, a recent change in how potential cases are being tested will likely change that statistic.
“The CDC was the only place in the country as of last week that was testing. Late last week that changed. The FDA said, no we’ll let other kits be used,” Missoula City-County Health Department infectious disease specialist Brigid O’Connor explained. “Much like we had last year with pertussis if you start testing, you’ll start finding.”
O’Connor believes testing will reveal those cases in Montana. While the spread of the coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – is worrisome, it’s important to remember there are other more prominent health concerns.
“There are other, much more present threats to our health. There are, in the U.S., 32 million cases of the flu,” O’Connor noted. “In the U.S. at this point this season, and there are between 86 to 89 cases of COVID.”
Among those 32 million flu cases are 18,000 deaths.
In China, where coronavirus began spreading in December, men have been more impacted, with most having other health problems. Women, pregnant women and children have seen fewer cases.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the common cold and the biggest impact can be found in the lower respiratory system.
“Generally, a fever and lower respiratory symptoms which involves a cough and shallow breathing. The shortness of breath is much more than what are usually felt with the common cold,” O’Connor told MTN News.
When it comes to fighting off contracting coronavirus, O’Connor suggests taking the same precautions used to fight any virus – things we should be doing anyway,
“Scrub your hands for a good 20 seconds, sing Happy Birthday a couple of times, rinse the germs down the drain. Hand sanitizer is a secondary thing. Then not to touch your face,” she noted.
O’Connor added that covering your mouth when you sneeze and cough is other precautions that should be taken to help avoid the spread of a virus that is almost certain to impact communities around the state in the weeks to come.