For Immediate Release: February 13, 2020
Ben Truman │ Vermont Department of Health
802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281
Health Department Monitoring Travelers Returning from China for Novel Coronavirus
Risk in Vermont continues to be low
BURLINGTON, VT – The Vermont Department of Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor people who have returned from travel in China for symptoms of a novel coronavirus, now called COVID-19.
The monitoring effort is for people who have returned from China in the past 14 days and who had no symptoms of respiratory illness when screened upon returning to the U.S.
There are no cases of illness from COVID-19 in Vermont. State health officials emphasized that, although the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, there has been no community spread of the illness in the U.S. and the risk for Vermonters is low at this time.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD said the Health Department is in regular contact with federal health officials regarding any travelers who may be returning to Vermont. Federal officials are screening everyone who has returned to the U.S. from travel in China.
“We have a multi-layered approach to protecting Vermonters’ health,” said Dr. Levine. “Once a person has been screened and cleared to continue their travel, if Vermont is their final destination, the Health Department is notified. Our epidemiology team then immediately reaches out to that person to assess their risk of exposure and determine what level of monitoring is indicated, and the extent to which the person may have to restrict their movements during the 14-day monitoring period.”
Dr. Levine said that in many cases, those who have been screened when they returned to the U.S. are at low risk of developing illness and are able to go about their normal routine. However, if the assessment determines a person’s risk is higher, the department will ask them to restrict their activities until after the 14 days from possible exposure has passed. Health officials also check in with them regularly to learn whether they’re developing any symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19. As of February 13, nine individuals are being monitored by the Health Department.
Coronaviruses are common throughout the world and cause respiratory illnesses, including the common cold. COVID-19 is a novel (new) coronavirus that can cause severe illness in people. Like other respiratory diseases, COVID-19 is spread in the air by coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of illness can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days, or up to 14 days after exposure.
The Health Department activated its Health Operations Center earlier this month to coordinate the state’s preparations and response activities to detect the virus – and if it is found, to prevent illness from spreading and to make sure the person gets the medical care they need.
“We are working with the state’s health care providers, hospitals, universities, schools and communities, providing guidance and other supports,” said Dr. Levine. “We are well prepared to respond if someone in Vermont tests positive for this virus. This is the work of public health, and we do it every day.”
“It’s important to remember that it’s people who get sick, not nationalities or ethnicities,” said Dr. Levine. “Coronaviruses are circulating in every part of the world. Your risk for COVID-19 depends on your exposure to the virus. As with any public health threat, the virus is the enemy, not people.”
The Health Department encourages Vermonters to stay informed of the rapidly changing situation and watch for any changes in guidance and recommendations.
Respiratory viruses are common right now, and flu is currently widespread in Vermont. To help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, get your flu shot and take these everyday actions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
For more information, go to healthvermont.gov/covid-19.
# # #
About the Department of Health
We have been the state's public health agency for more than 130 years, working every day to protect and promote the health of Vermonters.
Visit healthvermont.gov — Join us on Facebook — Follow us on Twitter