Lambton health officials watch and prepare for COVID-19

A man wearing a face mask and goggles waits to board the train at Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai on March 5, 2020. Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

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The risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in Sarnia and the rest of Lambton County remains low, yet public health and hospital officials are preparing in case it happens.

Lambton Public Health said, as of March 9, the 2019 novel coronavirus that causes the respiratory infection COVID-19 was not circulating in Sarnia-Lambton.

“Given what’s happening globally, we want to make sure we’re ready for it, should it come our way,” said Lori Lucas, supervisor of health protection for Lambton Public Health.

Local public health officials are closely monitoring the situation and encouraging residents to visit its website, LambtonPublicHealth.ca, to learn more about COVID-19, how to protect themselves and when to see their healthcare provider.

“Employers and businesses are encouraged to be ready and implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19, also while ensuring continuity of operations,” Lucas said.

That includes looking at an inventory of their resources, boosting the disinfecting of surfaces in the workplace, and providing places for “hand hygiene,” she said.

“Washing your hands is the best thing you can do, right now to keep yourself well.”

Also important is practicing cough and sneeze etiquette (into your sleeve, not your hand,) and staying home when feeling ill, she said.

“If you’re not feeling well, you’re better off at home recovering.”

If someone has travelled to a country affected by COVID-19 and aren’t feeling well, or visited another community in Ontario where they came into contact with someone with the disease, “that’s when it’s important to give us a call,” Lucas said.

Those who are severely ill should seek medical attention, she said.

Shannon Landry, chief nursing executive at Bluewater Health, said the hospital is also preparing, while continuing its daily efforts to prevent the spread of illness.

“We deal with respiratory illness every day in the hospital, so it is not something that is new to us,” Landry said.

The hospital also deals daily with contagious diseases, “and keeping patients and staff safe,” she said.

For staff, that includes making sure everyone is washing their hands really well, wearing their personal protective equipment and keeping patients are properly isolated, she said.

The hospital has a “surge plan” if it needs to open and staff additional beds, as well as an up-to-date pandemic plan, if needed, Landry said.

She added that 80 per cent of people with COVID-19 are expected to have mild to moderate symptoms they can manage at home.

Lambton Public Health said those with COVID-19 may have little or no symptoms, which are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure, it said.

Symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing and pneumonia in both lungs.

Landry said the hospital is advising that if someone has respiratory symptoms, “and you’re just not feeling well,” they should stay home and get in contact with their family health care provider, who can help direct them.

Lucas said Lambton Public Health’s role is to conduct surveillance and monitoring for the disease if there are local cases, and to work to local health care partners. The local public health office is being provided regular updates from provincial officials.

The office’s health protection team is most heavily involved in the effort, but additional staff can be called on when and if needed, Lucas said.

 

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