ATLANTA — About 200 people who recently returned from China are self-monitoring for symptoms of the novel coronavirus under the supervision of the Georgia Department of Public Health, according to a news release from the department.
These travelers arrived in the U.S. from mainland China outside Hubei Province — the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak — with no known high-risk exposure. These individuals currently have no symptoms and are isolated at home.
The total cases of coronavirus in the United States reached 13 on Tuesday, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed another infection in California. Confirmed U.S. cases now include seven in California, one from Wisconsin, one in Massachusetts, one in Washington state, one in Arizona and two in Chicago.
The Georgia Department of Public Health receives a list every day from Customs and Border Protection CBP with the names of Georgia travelers coming from China, according to the news release. Epidemiologists from the department contact those individuals by phone to establish a plan for self-monitoring and provide instructions on how to contact the department before seeking medical care if they develop fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Currently, there are no Georgia travelers who have returned from Wuhan or Hubei Province in China requiring quarantine, officials said.
The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that's a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. To slow the potential spread of the virus within the United States, on Jan. 31, President Trump issued a federal proclamation that included a travel ban for non-U.S. citizens entering the country from China and funneling flights from China to one of 11 airports in the U.S., including Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
In addition, the proclamation requires mandatory 14-day quarantine for returning travelers who have been in the Hubei Province — which are considered high risk — and 14 days of supervised self-monitoring for returning travelers from anywhere else in China — which are considered medium risk.
The CDC says the overall risk of coronavirus to the general public is low, but the best way to prevent infection of any respiratory virus is:
— Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
— Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
— Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
— Stay home when you are sick.
— Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the trash.
— Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Influenza is currently widespread and active in Georgia and Tennessee, and its symptoms mirror those of the coronavirus. The best prevention against the flu is vaccination, and it's not too late to get a flu shot, officials said.
More information about coronavirus is available at https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. Guidance for travelers can be found at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/novel-coronavirus-china.