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Health director: Otsego County is prepared for virus outbreak

The Daily Star - 3/5/2020

Mar. 5--COOPERSTOWN -- Otsego County is ready to deal with an outbreak of the coronavirus, a county health official told the Board of Representatives during its monthly meeting Wednesday, March 4, at 197 Main St.

Heidi Bond, the county's public health director, said her department has dealt with previous virus outbreaks, including zika in 2016 and ebola in 2014.

"This is not new work for us," she said. "We are well-prepared to deal with this. We have dealt with (something similar to) this before."

The coronavirus outbreak is moving so quickly Bond said the information she was presenting Wednesday morning could have changed by the time she was finished, but so far, upstate New York has not had any cases of disease diagnosed.

While Bond was speaking, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced there were four new cases in the state, which were connected to one Westchester County resident. Yeshiva University closed its main campus Wednesday after the man's son, a student at the upper Manhattan school, also tested positive for the virus, according to media reports.

A bigger outbreak on the West Coast has killed about 10 people in the Seattle area, according to media reports. And in California, Los Angeles County has declared a state of emergency.

Otsego County has not been affected yet, Bond said. However, the county released a statement Wednesday urging precautionary measures for residents.

The measures include: people washing their hands with soap and water, or using hand sanitizer; avoiding touching their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding contact with sick people; cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces; and staying home from school or work if a fever or other symptoms develop.

In addition to fever, other symptoms of the virus include, excessive coughing or sneezing, shortness of breath or respiratory illness.

Bond said the only place in the state testing for the virus is the Wadsworth Center in Albany. She said if someone is symptomatic they should not go to the local hospital but should instead contact the state or county to get connected with the center. The state coronavirus hotline number is 888-364-3065. The county health office number is 607-547-4231.

Despite the rapid spread of the virus, Bond said, county and state residents are still in more danger from influenza. According to the media release, there have been 131,000 flu cases reported in the state and eight pediatric deaths from the flu "this season, including 562 flu cases in Otsego County.

It is not too late in the season to get a flu shot, the release said.

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