So far, much of western Illinois has managed to steer clear of the novel coronavirus. But Dr. Ed Card, Chief Medical Officer at McDonough District Hospital, said residents must remain vigilant to prevent the spread of the disease.
“This is a very infective virus. Until December, no human immune system had ever seen this virus so there is no immunity to it built into the population,” he said.
“So it is quite possible that it could be around, which is why we keep stressing to wash your hands, then wash your hands again, and stay out of groups, and cover coughs and sneezes.”
As of March 22, 2020, one case of coronavirus was reported in Adams County. No cases were reported in Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, Mason, McDonough, Schuyler, or Warren counties. Cases by county can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website.
Card said testing for the coronavirus is done by IDPH. He said the department’s three labs (one each in Chicago, Springfield, and Carbondale) are overloaded and are currently accepting a limited number of tests. He said McDonough County has sent four tests to the labs and all have come back negative.
Card said local authorities are using tight guidelines in deciding who to test. “They first have to have appropriate symptoms. We then check for influenza, which is still far more common than coronavirus at this point. And if that is negative and they’re healthy, then they just go home because 80%-to-85% of people who contract the virus will recover spontaneously with no long-term problem.
“If they begin to get sicker or if they’re in an older population or have comorbidities, then we will go ahead and test them. But it’s a limited resource at this point so we have to be careful about how we use it. And we only do tests that are going to change how we’re managing the problem.”
Card said anyone suffering from a flu-like illness should call their family doctor. He said you should not go to the doctor’s office or show up at the emergency room because that could lead to big problems for the local healthcare system.
“Our worst-case scenario is that someone comes to the emergency room with a flu-like illness and exposes all of our emergency room, and everyone in the E.R. then has to be on a 14 day quarantine,” he said.
“But if you’re going to go to your doctor’s office or the emergency room because you think you’re getting worse, call them first so that they can prepare for your arrival.”
He said that will help prevent the release of the virus into healthcare settings.
Card said the staff at MDH has been working hard to prepare for the possibility of coronavirus spreading through McDonough County, and he believes the hospital is as ready as it can possibly be.
Card said this is no time for panic, but people should be concerned and they should take the situation seriously. He said we can’t count on the possibility that coronavirus will disappear when the weather gets warmer because there is currently no evidence to support that.
“We have to be prepared for this to go maybe as long as six to twelve months before enough people have been exposed to the virus and gained immunity that it can stop spreading,” Card said.
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