LOS ANGELES - Two additional cases of coronavirus in Los Angeles County were confirmed on Friday, including a second medical screener at Los Angeles International Airport, health officials said.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county to 13. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said that there are no cases within the county of unknown origin, meaning everyone who contracted the virus either came into contact with an individual with a known case or traveled to a country heavily impacted by the virus.
The additional medical screener is believed to have worked at the same quarantine station at LAX with the medical screener at LAX who had recently been diagnosed with novel coronavirus. Health officials believe the two individuals likely were exposed to the same source of the illness, but the county asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to handle the investigation into those cases.
The first medical professional was last screening air travelers for the illness on Feb. 21 and didn't begin to experience cold-like symptoms until Feb. 29. At which time, the individual immediately contacted a physician, who subsequently diagnosed the individual with COVID-19.
The second additional case was another individual who was part of a group of travelers who recently returned from a trip to Northern Italy, which make up eight of the 13 cases in LA County. Just a day earlier, public health officials reported four additional coronavirus patients who were part of the same group of travelers, in addition to three others confirmed Tuesday.
The other confirmed cases previously announced include two relatives of a person who lives outside the county and was also confirmed with the virus; and a traveler from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. That person, the county's first, has since recovered.
All of the patients are under isolation. Ferrer said health officials have identified close contacts of the patients who are being interviewed, "and as appropriate they too will be subject to quarantine for up to 14 days from their last exposure to a confirmed case."
She said she understands that the increased number in cases will spark greater concern among residents, but reiterated the fact that the risk of contracting the illness in the county remains low. She again stressed the need for people to practice good hygiene and for anyone who feels sick to stay home from school or work.
"The primary message for everyone, children and adults, is even with mild illness to please not circulate in the public, particularly don't go to schools and don't go into work,'' Ferrer said.
She described "mild symptoms" as having a fever of over 100, along with respiratory symptoms or stomach ailments.
On Wednesday, LA County declared a public health emergency over coronavirus. Later that day, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an emergency declaration to help the state procure supplies and resources quickly.
By declaring a state of emergency, cities will receive funds from the state and federal level. The decision to declare a state of emergency is not to create panic, but rather to allow local health agencies more tools and access to respond to this virus.
Although officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging residents to be prepared, they say you're still more likely to contract the flu than coronavirus.
The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory infections, including novel coronavirus, are:
• Stay home if you are sick. Sick people make well people sick.
• If you have mild symptoms, there may be no need to go to a medical facility to see a doctor.
• Certain patients, such as the elderly, those that are immune-compromised or have underlying health conditions should call their doctor earlier.
• If you have questions, please call the clinic or your doctor before going in. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 211 for assistance finding support near you.
• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Get immunized against the flu to protect yourself and your family, and reduce the potential strain on the healthcare system, which may be impacted by COVID-19 concerns.