Health official: Oregon coronavirus outbreak 'fairly widespread'
The outbreak of COVID-19 is "likely fairly widespread" among Oregonians, though undetected, a state health official said Monday, March 2.
But only a tiny fraction of those who have contracted the disease actually die, meaning people whose symptoms are no worse than common cold or flu need not seek emergency medical care, said State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger.
Sidelinger spoke on a conference call to discuss the third case of COVID-19 in Oregon, an employee of Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Eastern Oregon. It's unclear how this person contracted the virus, confirming that it is probably already widespread, Sidelinger said.
"I think that having three cases in Oregon, none of which have seem to share a commonality and seem to stem from transmission can indicate that this disease is likely fairly widespread in our community — as it is in many other communities, as we're seeing from our neighbors in Washington and California."
A researcher in Washington state on Sunday estimated that there were a "few hundred" cases of the disease in Washington state. Though Oregon is monitoring 86 individuals for potential COVID-19, it's likely the extent here is similar to what Washington is seeing, Sidelinger said. "I think it would be reasonable to assume that the spread that's occurring in Washington is probably similar to the spread that we're seeing here in Oregon," he said.
Sidelinger said the majority of patients with more serious complications or who need to be hospitalized have underlying medical conditions. If people have symptoms that wouldn't have caused them to seek care before the recent outbreak, Sidlinger said, officials ask that they stay home while they recover.
People with shortness of breath or other worrisome symptoms should call their health care provider to arrange for a visit. People with "urgent needs" should still call 9-1-1, he said.
"We do know that there have been some younger people without underlying medical conditions throughout this outbreak who had more severe disease," he said. "It appears that potentially smoking may contribute to more serious disease (as smokers have) diminished lung capacity to begin with, and damages to their lungs. But sometimes… the symptoms get worse in otherwise healthy individuals and we don't have all the answers over what puts them at risk," Sidelinger added.
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