MSU is monitoring COVID-19 & North Mississippi medical team is taking a proactive approach

The following letter is from Mississippi State University Health Services Executive Director Dr. Cliffton W. Story, which was sent to the MSU community on Thursday 2/27/2020: 

Health officials worldwide are closely monitoring the outbreak of illness caused by the newly identified coronavirus (COVID-19). The epicenter of this outbreak is Wuhan, China. Lesser numbers have been reported in several other countries, and, as of February 26, 2020, there were 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., including those repatriated to the U.S. from cruise ships abroad.

To date, there have been no cases of COVID-19 reported at MSU or in Mississippi.  However, health officials worldwide recognize that this is a rapidly evolving situation and that recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. State Department, and the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) are subject to frequent change.

At present, MSU is not approving travel to countries that have been issued Level 3 status by the CDC, including China and South Korea. MSU is discouraging travel to Level 2 status countries, which now include Japan, Italy and Iran.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

MSU will communicate directly with students and faculty impacted by study abroad programs prior to making public comment on those issues.

We encourage all students and parents to monitor the CDC website as it provides the most current reference:  Novel 2019-2020 Coronavirus Infections – Click here for more information from the CDC

MSU’s Longest Student Health Center is working closely with campus partners, the CDC, and experts at the MSDH to strategically monitor this evolving public health issue.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

  • MSU has had no suspected cases of coronavirus, and MSU has not been notified of any member of the campus community with the virus.
  • The risk for Mississippians currently remains relatively low and MSU — along with the CDC and the MSDH — is closely monitoring the situation. Coronavirus can cause mild illness that can be overcome, but more severe cases can be life-threatening.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:

  • Take general precautions like frequent hand washing to prevent the spread of any virus, including seasonal flu, which is still active across Mississippi, the Southeast, and the U.S.
  • If you have not received a flu shot, it is not too late. For additional advice on flu facts and prevention, visit cdc.gov/flu.
  • If you have flu-like symptoms, it is likely the common cold or a common strain of the flu. Symptoms of coronavirus include, but are not limited to, fever, runny nose, headache, cough, and the general feeling of being unwell; these also are symptoms of the common flu virus.
  • If you have concerning symptoms, call the MSU Longest Student Health Center prior to visiting at (662) 325-2431 or after hours at (1-800-882-6274).

Students and employees who have traveled from impacted areas in the past 14 days and who have a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should contact the Health Center or seek appropriate care immediately.

All incoming patients arriving at the MSU Longest Student Health Center with cough, sneezing, sore throat, fever, and respiratory issues will be masked to protect other patients as we evaluate the cause of their illness.

All incoming patients will be asked to provide a travel history to determine if they are at risk for the newly identified coronavirus.

Prevention is a key strategy with any virus, such as influenza or coronavirus, so it is important to both protect yourself and take measures against spread to others.

The MSU Office of Public Affairs will circulate timely notices regarding any changes in MSU’s proactive strategies to responsibly monitor these public health concerns. Media inquiries should be directed to MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter at ssalter@opa.msstate.edu or 662-325-3442.

North Mississippi Health Services (NMHS) is taking a proactive approach to educate staff and the public about COVID-19, a new strain of the coronavirus.

“Our preparations include a multidisciplinary team, composed of physicians and other healthcare professionals, who are developing protocols and educational materials specific to COVID-19,” said Jeremy Blanchard, M.D., NMHS chief medical officer.

NMHS is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and is working closely with the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Alabama State Department of Health.

The first wave of preparations included educating emergency medicine staff at the North Mississippi Medical Centers in Tupelo, Amory, Eupora, Iuka, Pontotoc and West Point, Mississippi, and Hamilton, Alabama as well as North Mississippi Medical Clinics and North Mississippi Medical Center clinic locations throughout the hospital’s 24-county service area.

“For any patient who has traveled outside the United States in the last 30 days and COVID-19 is suspected, our Emergency Department staff knows to MIC them. The acronym stands for Mask, Isolate and Call the state health department in Mississippi or Alabama depending on the hospital’s location,” Dr. Blanchard said.

Individuals seeking care at NMHS clinics and urgent care will see signage posted at the entrances. The signs provide these instructions: Have you traveled to China AND have flu-like symptoms? STOP and please do not enter the building. Return to your vehicle and call 1-800-882-6274 for instructions on how to proceed with medical treatment.

NMHS is steering these calls to Nurse Link, a free telephone and health information service. Callers speak directly to a registered nurse and get immediate answers. Using computerized protocols, nurses direct callers to the most appropriate medical treatment. If COVID-19 is suspected, those calls will be directed to the Mississippi State Department of Health, who would direct the patient where to seek health care. Nurse Link is available in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee with support from local providers as needed.

Individuals who call 911 seeking emergent medical treatment are encouraged to alert the dispatcher and responding crews of their travel history and symptoms if they fit the criteria for COVID-19.

Preparations also include procurement of medical supplies to treat this specific patient population. Employees will be instructed to use personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriately to ensure an adequate supply will be available in the event COVID-19 spreads to the NMHS service area.

“Ideally, anyone who fits the screening criteria for COVID-19 would call the hospital or doctor’s office before they arrive to help prevent the spread of infection,” Dr. Blanchard said.

The CDC does offer guidelines on how individuals can protect themselves and others. There are currently no vaccines available to protect against COVID-19. The risk of infection may be reduced by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • For information about washing your hands, see CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

Individuals who have cold-like symptoms can help protect others by doing the following:

  • Stay home while you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with others
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces