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Public health: a safety net always working to protect you

Director of Health Dr. Anthony Chen
by Anthony Chen02/04/2020 3:06 p.m.
Updated: 02/25/2020

Public health works behind the scenes to keep you and your family safe. Whether you know it or not, much of what we do in the background ensures the public health safety net protects you.

That safety net is working for you right now as we investigate the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. We are learning more about this previously unidentified disease. Thousands have become ill and others have died. We have no reported coronavirus cases in Pierce County so far.

Am I at risk for 2019 novel coronavirus?

Your risk of catching this coronavirus in Washington is low. Why? First, we are unaware of ongoing disease transmission in Washington. Second, to be at risk for this infection, you generally need to have close contact with someone—within six feet—for more than 10 minutes or be in contact with their secretions. You would not be at risk if you, for example, simply passed someone in an airport concourse. The person would have to have confirmed coronavirus infection and be actively coughing or sneezing around you for a prolonged period of time to expose you.

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This virus may be new, but the public health response is not. We make sure providers have the information they need to watch for cases. We make sure schools and businesses know any steps they need to take. We tell the public what to watch for and who should be concerned. Even without a case in Pierce County, we take steps to be prepared and to communicate reliable local public health information to our communities.

How can I stop the spread of disease?

It is cold and flu season in the U.S. These more common respiratory illnesses circulate in our communities—especially the flu. Unless you have been in a region where the 2019 novel coronavirus is circulating, you have little reason to be concerned about it. But you should be concerned about the flu and take steps to prevent it. 

Every year, the flu sends hundreds of people to the hospital in Pierce County and causes death. So far this season, seven adults and two children have died from flu-related complications. It is not too late to get your flu shot. The flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu. 

Along with a flu shot, other steps you can take to protect your health and the health of your family:

  • 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.
  • Avoid close contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are sick.

Your reliable source for local public health information.

In our role as the reliable source of local public health information, we want to raise awareness about misinformation related to the coronavirus outbreak. Diseases do not stop at city, county, or international borders. This coronavirus may have originated abroad, but not everyone from parts of the world with increased risk has the disease or was potentially exposed to it. I urge you to:

  • Rely on and share trusted sources of information about the outbreak.
  • Avoid comments that unfairly label, harass, or spread misinformation.

We are always working on the many issues that can affect the health of our communities. The public health safety net ensures protection for everyone, everywhere, every day in Washington. From emergent diseases to ongoing public health concerns, our goal is to nurture strong and thriving communities.

We do not have a case of 2019 coronavirus in Pierce County. As we do with any disease threat, we are working hard to make sure we are prepared. That is public health at work for you.

Learn more at www.tpchd.org/coronavirus, from the Washington State Department of Health or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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  1. Updated: 02/25/2020
Director of Health Dr. Anthony Chen

by Anthony Chen

Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, is the Director of Health at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and chief health strategist for Pierce County.

 

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