HONOLULU(KHON2)–The number of coronavirus cases is rapidly rising–now approaching 8,000 in China.
The CDC confirmed that there are still only five confirmed cases in the United States.
Wednesday state officials gathered to dispel some rumors and explain the latest on the virus.
Governor David Ige confirmed there aren’t any cases in the islands yet.
“I want to be clear there have been no cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus here in the state of Hawaii. We are being proactive and engaging federal, state, county partners and the private sector as appropriate. We want to be proactive and make sure that we can continue to stay ahead. There is very very minimal risk to the residents and visitors here to the island at this time,” Ige explained.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director explained in a telephone conference that the risk to the general American public is low.
“The risk factors that we’ve identified in the United States are travel to Wuhan, but the second group of people that we are especially concerned about are people who are in close contact to people who have traveled to Wuhan,” Messonnier said.
Messonnier said that the CDC is enhancing its screening at the 20 existing quarantine stations across the US, including Honolulu.
“What we are doing is enhancing the staffing at those airports so that we can do more of that illness detection. It’s called the standard illness protocol. Part of our normal business but it’s an equally important opportunity for CDC to work with CBP to provide all of these incoming passengers materials, education materials to specifically point out what the signs and symptoms of what novel coronavirus are,” Messonnier explained.
The state is also stepping up. They’re training airport firefighters in infectious disease response at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport.
Martinez Jacobs, Fire Chief DOT Airports Division said they’ve been going through training with the Department of Health.
“It’s more preventative methods and swabbing. We are going to catch the rest of our airports, but this is focused on where we receive these international flights,” Jacobs said.
“By Friday, we will have 100 percent trained on that.”
With concerns about the disease growing, State officials also wanted to dispel some rumors.
“Social media is running rampant and we are certainly getting reports of concern…The CDC here in the US is the only laboratory that can confirm in case they are the only ones that can return a laboratory results are positive or negative,” Dr. Sarah Park, Hawaii State epidemiologist explained.
She said that if you don’t hear the information coming from the CDC or the State it is likely a rumor.
She added that they are still learning about the disease so much of their information is based off of viruses that are somewhat similar to the coronavirus.
“It’s an estimation at this point, based on what we know, the characteristics of other coronaviruses. There are common coronaviruses, and then there are the mutated ones like SARS CoV and now this one.”
Therefore she said they are not sure what the true incubation period for the virus is.
“That two to 14 days is the minimum and maximum range for all coronaviruses. Until we have more data, that is the information we’re working with,” Park explained.
She said they also don’t know for sure whether the virus can be spread during the incubation period.
“We assume that while you’re sick, you are infectious.”
Messonnier said symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to a common cold or the flu.
“The symptoms of the disease really are fever and cough and respiratory disease.”
Both the CDC and the DOH are advising people to avoid traveling to China.