Washtenaw County Health Department Continues to Monitor Coronavirus Outbreak

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 02/26/2020 - 16:39

Washtenaw County Health Department is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (initially 2019-nCoV and now called COVID-19) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand. 

No cases have been confirmed in Michigan or in Washtenaw County. 

Washtenaw County Health Department continues to work closely with state and federal health officials to appropriately monitor or test any individuals returning from higher risk areas. Countries in addition to China are now seeing sustained transmission of COVID-19; travel alerts have been added through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.

We are actively preparing for the possibility of local cases and the spread of illness in Washtenaw County. This includes sharing information about the situation locally and where to get reliable state, national, and international updates. It also includes working closely with health care providers, other first responders, and community members to prepare for any disease control measures, such as social distancing or limiting public gatherings, that may be needed if the situation changes. Currently no additional actions are recommended.

Good handwashing, staying away from others if sick and covering your cough are always recommended. Flu continues to circulate locally.


There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often 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.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

You CANNOT tell if someone has a risk of spreading novel coronavirus by what they look like. Stereotypes and discrimination harm public health.

Transmission and Testing

It is unclear how easily the virus is spreading between people at this time. Signs and symptoms of this illness include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The most up-to-date information on the situation is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.htmlThree individuals in Washtenaw were tested; all of these tests were negative. 

All testing is currently done at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Testing is only approved if certain travel conditions are met and symptoms are consistent with COVID-19.

Information on Traveler and Airport Screening

Individuals returning from China now enter the U.S. through one of 11 airports, including Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW). CDC staff are screening individuals for symptoms consistent with coronavirus and providing information or instructions. Washtenaw County Health Department is in close contact with state and federal health officials to support any necessary monitoring or testing of local individuals. 

The CDC has now issued a travel alert regarding South Korea and Japan. Anyone spending time in these countries should watch themselves for symptoms for 14 days after and let their health care provider know about their travel history before seeking medial care. 

For more, see travel notices: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html. And, information for travelers from China arriving in the U.S.: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-china.html

About Coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with MERS and SARS. When person-to-person spread has occurred with SARS and MERS, it is thought to have happened via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of SARS and MERS between people has generally occurred between close contacts. Past MERS and SARS outbreaks have been complex, requiring comprehensive public health response. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

Washtenaw County Health Department's picture
Washtenaw County Health Department
The Washtenaw County Health Department promotes health and works to prevent disease and injury for all in our community. Our mission is to assure, in partnership with the community, the conditions necessary for people to live healthy lives through prevention and protection programs. Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD) plays a critical role in all of our lives and exists to provide our community with the tools, information, resources and opportunities to make positive health changes.

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