Most Monroe County Covid-19 cases are due to community spread

Contributed by the Monroe County Health Department

As of May 15, Monroe County has had 15 cases of Covid-19, 13 cases have recovered, one is hospitalized, and one has passed away. We are concerned that many members of the public may be lulled into a false sense of security that Covid-19 is not here.

The majority of cases in Monroe County have been due to community spread. Community spread means that those who tested positive for Covid-19 are unsure of how or where they became infected. They did not travel somewhere with Covid-19, come into contact with someone who tested positive, or had contact with anyone who was sick.

You may wonder how there can be community spread when we haven’t had new cases.

Covid-19 does not always cause severe illness in an individual. Many times, people who have Covid-19 have mild symptoms or do not have any symptoms at all (asymptomatic). Therefore, they do not seek treatment or receive testing. Additionally, due to the fact that testing supplies were more limited at the beginning of the pandemic, many healthcare systems were not able test those with mild symptoms. For these reasons, we estimate that there are more cases than we are aware of.

For someone to be considered a “confirmed case” of Covid-19, he or she must have a positive lab test. Positive cases of Covid-19 are reported to the health department for the jurisdiction in which they reside. For Monroe County, this means that if you live in Monroe County and test positive for Covid-19, it is reported to Monroe County Health Department regardless of where you work. For example, if an individual works in Tomah, but lives in Mauston, their case would be reported to Juneau County Health Department. If an individual lives in Sparta but works in La Crosse, his or her case would reported to Monroe County Health Department.

Health department staff then conduct an intensive interview to determine who this person came into contact with, a process known as contact tracing. Positive cases are asked to isolate themselves, and their higher-risk contacts are asked to quarantine for 14 days and report their symptoms daily to the health department. However, if people aren’t tested, then none of these measures can be taken.

Like other states and countries, we’ve had to navigate this pandemic with many limitations, such as lack of testing supplies and personal protective equipment and no vaccine or proven treatment, and our response must take into account these limitations. It’s simply impossible to test everyone for Covid-19, which is why we’ve had to use other tools to slow the spread of the illness.

Actions such as social distancing, wearing a face mask, and frequent and thorough hand washing are all ways to protect not only yourself, but others from Covid-19. While you may be healthy, you could be unknowingly spreading Covid-19 to someone who is at higher risk of severe complications or who works somewhere where it is difficult to limit contact with others. By nature of their work, there are workplaces that are not conducive to limiting contact with others. Employees may have to come into contact with sick individuals, those at risk of severe complications, or just generally have to be in close contact with other employees. In these settings, Covid-19 can spread quickly and cause outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has updated the list of Covid-19 symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus and include cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fever (over 100.4), chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. If you are experiencing symptoms, even mild symptoms, contact your medical provider or visit wihealthconnect.com. For additional information about Covid-19, contact Monroe County Health Department or visit dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19, healthymonroecowi.org/covid-19, or cdc.gov/covid-19.

 

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