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Monitoring For Novel Coronavirus, Unalaska's Clinic Reports No Local Cases Of Infectious Disease

Laura Kraegel

A virus that's killed at least 80 people in China has not reached Unalaska.

Iliuliuk Family and Health Services made that announcement last week after rumors of local infections spread on social media.

"There are no immediate concerns," said Dr. Megan Sarnecki, the clinic's medical director. "We have not had any cases where we think novel coronavirus caused the symptoms or the death of a patient in Unalaska."

While the island sees many international travelers through its fishing and processing industries, Sarnecki said Unalaska hasn't had much, if any, connection to where the virus originated.

"We don't have a lot of travel to and from China," she said. "And [the clinic's] electronic health record has already instituted a screening tool: Anybody who presents with fever, cough, or respiratory symptoms will be asked about travel to China in the last two weeks, specifically Wuhan city or Hubei Province. But when I look at that, it doesn't include a lot of people in Dutch Harbor — maybe no one."

Local concerns about the infection may be driven by the fact that many Unalaskans have had influenza this winter. It presents with the same symptoms as the novel coronavirus.  

Sarnecki said the community should rest assured that public health officials are monitoring carefully for the infectious disease.

"We will keep people updated," she said. "Certainly, if there was a case of novel coronavirus in the community, we — along with the public health department in Anchorage and the Center for Disease Control nationally — would be reporting that out. That is not something that would ever stay silent or secret."

Sarnecki said anyone who has traveled to or from China since Dec. 1 and is experiencing upper respiratory symptoms should call the clinic at 581-1202.

She also recommended Unalaskans stay healthy during flu season by getting flu shots, washing their hands frequently, and staying home from work or school if they have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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