Governor Pete Ricketts is urging people to maintain perspective as health officials start asking world travelers coming back to Nebraska from nine countries considered high-risk for the COVID-19 coronavirus to self-report through an online portal.
A Health Advisory Network released Tuesday by Nebraska DHHS provides new guidance to healthcare professionals to help identify and track potential cases of the illness involving people returning to the state from China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan, and several other southeast Asian countries.
Ricketts says the request to have travelers register their return on the database is just meant to be a prudent step in efforts to track and combat spread of the disease. “We are continuing to monitor this, but I think it’s also important to keep it all in perspective that people are at much greater risk of the ordinary flu, whether it’s influenza A or B, than they are from coronavirus right now in our country,” says Ricketts.
Ricketts notes 12,000 people are anticipated to die from influenza in the U.S. every year, while the COVID-19 coronavirus has not claimed any lives in the country. He reminds people that simple steps of washing your hands, not coughing openly and staying home when running a fever help combat the spread of both illnesses.
In an advisory sent from DHHS Chief Medical Officer Gary Anthone and State Epidemiologist Tom Safranek, travel history should be obtained from all patients at any health care facility, and appropriate infection control should be promptly implemented.
Those travelers exposed to a confirmed patient, or who have returned from the list of countries that also includes Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam in the prior 14 days and show fever or respiratory symptoms will be reported to public health for evaluation.
Travelers coming back from China who are asymptomatic will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days and self-report to the state public health online tracking system, while those returning from the other countries without symptoms will be asked to self-report and a public health official will contact them by phone to provide individualized recommendations.