Waterbury Hospital Employee on ‘Self-Imposed' Quarantine After Trip to China

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A Waterbury Hospital employee is on “self-imposed” quarantine for two weeks as a precaution after returning to China amid a coronavirus epidemic with thousands of confirmed cases in China and 11 in the United States.

Waterbury Hospital said it is going “above and beyond” the screening guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for coronavirus.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and after reviewing the CDC guidance and making contact with the State Department of Health, Waterbury Hospital has arranged for one of our employees who recently returned from China to remain home from work for 14 days, during which she will be paid by the hospital for any missed shifts. We have been in contact with the employee and her family since her return to the US and have been advised by them that she is symptom-free,” Waterbury Hospital said in a statement.

Coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, in the Hubei Province of China, according to the CDC. The World Health Organization reports that there have been more than 20,600 confirmed cases globally and 452 deaths. Most of the confirmed cases have been in China.

There have been 11 positive cases in the United States, as of Jan. 31. The closest one to Connecticut has been in Massachusetts.

“While the CDC has not issued a work restriction policy for healthcare workers traveling from China who are symptom-free, we are committed to going above and beyond the CDC’s current screening guidelines for the coronavirus to ensure the safety and security of our patients, our staff and our community. We care deeply for the health and well-being of all our employees and we thank the employee for agreeing to this self-imposed 14-day quarantine period,” Waterbury Hospital said in a statement.

The employee is due back at work during the week of Feb. 16 if she remains free of symptoms and is cleared by a doctor.

“Additionally, we are following the CDC’s specific guidelines for effectively and safely handling any suspected coronavirus cases that may occur,” Waterbury Hospital said.

That employee, who asked not to be named, said she went to China to celebrate the Chinese New Year in her hometown, which is about an hour from Wuhan.

"Before I went to Wuhan I asked my friend. I heard about the pneumonia stuff. I say, it’s okay over there? My friend say, ‘yes okay. Nothing special happened.’" she explained.

At first, she said life went on as normal. But by the time she was leaving, she saw changes, like many wearing masks and businesses closing, as the coronavirus situation worsened. Her husband also grew concerned as he followed the news. When she returned home, the couple worried about her going back to work too soon.

"All things combined we wanted to make sure that the town was safe, and our friends were safe, and that everybody at work was safe so what we’re doing is trying to stay in the house as much as we can for 14 days until she was past the time period," her husband Frank Matika, who has a different last name, explained.

So far, she has not shown any symptoms and is feeling OK. Her family in China is also OK so far.

The concern over the coronavirus comes at a time when the state of Connecticut is being hit hard by the flu virus. 

While influenza viruses and coronaviruses have similar symptoms, the risk of catching the flu in the United States remains far greater, according to Yale New Haven Health.

Symptoms of Coronavirus:

Reported confirmed illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • The CDC believes that symptoms of 2019-nCoV might appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 after exposure.

Transmission of Coronavirus

Most often, coronavirus is spread from person-to-person among close contacts of about 6 feet -- mainly when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The CDC says it’s currently unclear if a person can get this virus, 2019-nCoV, by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Prevention of Coronavirus

There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection.

The best way to prevent infection is to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Learn More About Coronavirus and Flu

Learn more about coronavirus on the CDC website here.

Learn more about flu here.

What Not to Do:

The CDC urges people:

  • Not to travel to China.
  • Do not use facemasks. CDC does not recommend the use of facemasks for the general public to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV.
  • Do not show prejudice to people of Asian descent, because of fear of this new virus. Do not assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have 2019-nCoV.
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