JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - So far, Mississippi hasn’t had a single case of coronavirus reported. Not even a suspected one.
Dr. Paul Byers, State Epidemiologist with the Health Department, says right now the flu is a more realistic concern in the Magnolia State.
“So, when somebody has symptoms consistent with flu, and this illness can give you symptoms consistent with flu, COVID-19 can, then it’s likely the flu, in Mississippi, because that’s what we have being transmitted right now,” Byers said.
But watching the patterns of the coronavirus overseas means we need to be ready to react when it happens.
“Certainly it’s our concern that we may see widespread transmission within the United States and ultimately within Mississippi,” Byers said.
Byers said hospitals and health care providers around the state are being educated by the Health Department to know the signs, take the steps to isolate suspected cases and call state health officials for further guidance on a case by case basis.
For now, that has a lot to do with clarifying risk factors such as travel and who a person has come into contact with.
“We have a lot to learn about this virus," Byers said. "Certainly we know there are certain populations who, if infected, may be at higher risk for some complications and maybe even deaths.”
Every hospital and doctor's office should be prepared should the outbreak hit our state, Byers tells us.
“We’re not at that point yet, but we need to be prepared for it, and those are the kind of steps that the Health Department is doing every day,” he said.
The first thing a healthcare provider will do if you’re showing signs of the corona virus is isolate you, and then they’ll call the Department of Health, at which point Health Department officials will work with the physician to see if you’re really at risk and if testing is required.
Byers says if you don’t need hospitalization but you may still have COVID-19, steps can be taken toward home care or home monitoring.
He says while that doesn’t seem to be a factor now, it’s probably coming. Byers says every hospital in the state needs to be prepared to make the determination if someone's symptoms look to be those of the corona virus.
Health Department employees will be visiting hospitals statewide to walk them through that process, how to best isolate the patient, and the best health care worker protection.
Meanwhile, one of the best things you can do to avoid COVID-19 is simply wash your hands regularly.