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Health officials in Colorado ski country and officials in the travel and ski industries around the world are keeping a watchful eye on the deadly novel coronavirus spreading across China and now the world.
Late last week, the International Ski Federation cancelled men’s World Cup ski races slated for mid-February in China to test the speed-event race courses ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The races have been moved to Austria.
With more than 360 deaths now attributed to the viral outbreak that started in December in Wuhan, global stock markets are jittery, especially for travel and tourism industry stocks.
Closer to home, while there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Colorado or the Vail Valley as of Friday, Vail health officials are busy putting protocols in place. Here’s a press release on local efforts from Eagle County:
Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical, along with Eagle County Public Health and Environment, are collaborating on protocols and plans to prepare for novel coronavirus. Although there are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Eagle County or the state of Colorado, the local health system is taking steps to prepare in the event a case emerges in the county.
“We are working very closely with our medical partners to ensure the most current guidance is being provided about how to evaluate people for novel coronavirus and what precautions need to be taken by our medical providers,” said Becky Larson, Epidemiologist and Deputy Director for Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “At this time, testing is only being considered for people that develop fever or cough within two weeks of travel to China or direct contact with a confirmed coronavirus case.”
The guidance for testing and evaluating patients is evolving rapidly with the outbreak. As new information and data continues to emerge, updates are made to this guidance. This information is then relayed from Eagle County Public Health and Environment directly to the local health care system, including Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical. The most current guidance and information related to this outbreak can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) coronavirus website. This site also includes information for travelers, including precautions and travel alerts to help reduce risks of exposure and infection by the novel coronovirus. Contacting a primary health care provider or urgent care center by phone to report symptoms and relevant travel history prior to seeking care is strongly encouraged.
“We are taking extra precautions to prepare for the novel coronavirus,” said Bobby Brown, Sr. Director of Patient Care Services for Vail Health. “This includes special protocols that our Vail Health and CMM staff have put in place to help them quickly identify individuals who may be ill with the virus and to help prevent the spread of the virus.”
Health care providers in Eagle County, as well as across Colorado, are in contact with each other daily through the county and state departments of public health.
“Vail Health’s emergency planning is robust and systematic,” said Caitlyn Ngam, Infection Preventionist at Vail Health. “It is flexible with system-wide precautions and actions that can be rapidly scaled up or down, depending upon the risk within our community. This plan also connects directly to our community health experts at Eagle County Public Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.”
With seasonal influenza (flu) currently an issue within the mountain community, Vail Health, Colorado Mountain Medical, and Eagle County Public Health and Environment would like to encourage residents and visitors to take steps to help prevent influenza from spreading further in our community. Flu season typically runs from October to April each winter season.
“We are in the peak of our local flu season, but it is preventable,” said Larson. “Although we are accustomed to seasonal flu, it is important to remember that it can be a serious illness for many in our community and even cause death.”
The greatest risk for complications is among older adults, young children, and individuals with underlying illness.
“The best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu and its potentially serious complications is to get a flu vaccine annually,” said Ada Borg, Chief Operating Officer at Colorado Mountain Medical. “The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get vaccinated each year.”
Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, feeling tired and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. In the most severe cases it can cause death and accounts for between 40,000 and 60,000 deaths each year in the United States.
“To help stop the spread of the flu virus, please stay home from work or school to rest and avoid spreading the flu to others,” said Borg. “Remember to cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and clean surfaces that may be contaminated with flu viruses. Be sure to take all antiviral drugs prescribed by your doctor.”
For more information regarding the flu, visit the CDC website.