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Department Advice on Potential Coronavirus Illnesses

As reported coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases continue to go up and because not everyone who may be ill can be tested, a Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) official is offering advice on what residents who are sick with a respiratory illness should do.

Dr. Alexa Harrist

“Most reported cases of COVID-19 in Wyoming so far can describe a likely source of infection, such as contact with a known case,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH. “But there are others with an unknown source of infection and there are likely more illnesses than we have been able to track. We believe there is local community spread in Wyoming.”

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which are also symptoms of other respiratory illnesses such as influenza.

“If you have a fever or cough, you might have COVID-19,” Harrist said. “We know most people who are infected have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care.”

“But, we also know people who are aged 65 and older and people who have medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and weak immune systems are more likely to get severe illness,” she said.

“If you’re sick, we need you to stay home except to get medical help if your symptoms include trouble breathing, steady chest pain or pressure, or bluish lips or face,” Harrist said. “We suggest calling ahead to a medical professional for help to decide whether you need more evaluation or calling 911 for an obvious medical emergency.”

Other recommendations to follow when ill include:

  • Avoid contact with other people in public areas
  • Keep away from other people at home as much as possible
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Wash hands often
  • Avoid sharing personal household items like eating utensils and drinking glasses
  • Clean high-touch surfaces every day

Harrist noted COVID-19 is a new disease despite the familiar symptoms. “That means higher potential for quick spread. Our bodies aren’t prepared to fight a new virus and there are no vaccines or proven treatments yet available,” she said. “With new diseases there can be more people sick at one time, which is tough for our local healthcare systems to handle.”

Harrist said anyone can get sick and has a chance of a serious illness with COVID-19, and anyone who is sick can pass it on to others.

“That’s why it is incredibly important to stay home when you are sick and for everyone to follow the public health orders that are in place to limit contact for all of us with others. They are meant to save lives and to reduce the spread of this disease in our state.” she said.

More details about what to do when sick are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html.

More information about COVID-19 and Wyoming can be found online here: https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/infectious-disease-epidemiology-unit/disease/novel-coronavirus/.

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