Brown County health leaders talk preventing spread of coronavirus, flu

(Photo: CDC) (MGN)
(Photo: CDC) (MGN)(KWQC)
Published: Mar. 3, 2020 at 12:53 PM CST
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Brown County health leaders held a press conference Tuesday to talk about steps being taken to prevent the spread of influenza, coronavirus and other illness.

Brown County Health and Human Services, De Pere Health Department, and Oneida Community Health Center came together to discuss how they are working to keep the public safe.

Brown County coronavirus news conference

WATCH: Brown County health leaders discuss preparations for preventing spread of illnesses like coronavirus and flu.

Posted by WBAY TV-2 on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Brown County has set up a website for information on the spread of the new coronavirus.

to view the website.

Coronavirus Disease 2019--also know as COVID-19--was first identified in China in December. It can cause severe illness and death. Because it is new, very little is known about it.

As of this publication,

"The risk to the general population in Wisconsin and the United States remains low," says Anna Destree, Brown County Health Officer/Administrator.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says it is spread mainly through coughs and sneezes.

"It is believed that the main way that COVID-19 spreads to others is when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes," says Destree. "And this is the same way that influenza and other respiratory illnesses spread."

At this point, there has been no person-to-person spread of coronavirus in Wisconsin.

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

State health officials say people can help prevent the spread of the virus by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

"Cover those coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or disposable tissue. After doing so, get rid of the tissue and wash your hands," says Debbie Armbruster, De Pere Public Health.

If you cannot wash your hands, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is recommended.

"Preferably wash your hands with soap and vigorously rub your hands for 20 seconds. However, if you are unable to do so, use hand sanitizer," Armbruster says.

When it comes to face masks, Dr. Christopher Painter, an emergency medical physician with BayCare Clinic, said that isn't your best line of defense, espeically the N-95 masks designed for health professionals.

"We have to be fitted for them and if they are not worn properly, they are not effective," said Dr. Painter. "The other piece of that too is if you are wearing a face mask, you are touching your face more frequently, manipulating the mask where you could present contamination to your face and put yourself at a slightly increased risk."

It's also important to avoid contact with people who are sick.

It's recommended that people stay home when they are sick.

"People who are sick should stay home from work, school or child care until they are fever-free for 24 hours without medication," says Armbruster.

Anna Destree, a public health officer with Brown County Health and Human Services, said now is the time for employers and business owners to start thinking about a precautionary plan, which includes the possibility of people working from home.

"We would encourage anyone who has a question about that to contact public health so we can talk through it with them and perhaps help them," said Destree. "We would certainly be there as a resource to any business or organization. Please reach out to us in those situations."

The public health department has already been working with local schools.

"Public health has worked with emergency preparedness and emergency management for years so we have developed a lot of those plans already. Now we will make it specific to the particular event," said Armbruster. "We have worked with schools a lot on other illnesses so it's a comfortable relationship."

for more prevention advice.

At total of 21 people have been tested for possible coronavirus in Wisconsin. One person tested positive for the virus. Two other cases are pending. Eighteen cases have tested negative.

There are no known cases in Brown County as of this publication.

to track Wisconsin investigation numbers.

While county and health officials will continue to keep an eye on the coronavirus, they say influenza still remains their biggest concern in Wisconsin.