The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) joined 29 other states this week in Washington, D.C. working with federal partners on the monitoring and response to COVID-19. To date, there are two persons under investigation in Oklahoma. While testing is pending, the routine process of investigating suspected infectious disease events is to identify contacts who were at risk of exposure and implement control measures to prevent further transmission.
Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma. It is also important to note that a person under investigation does not represent a case of novel coronavirus. It is expected that the OSDH will soon have the capability to test for COVID-19 at the agency’s public health laboratory, currently the only laboratory in the state approved by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct testing. Having the capability to test in state will reduce the amount of time it takes to receive test results for a person under investigation for COVID-19. Currently, all specimens in Oklahoma are being sent to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Local testing will allow public health officials to quickly determine a negative test result. A positive test result will be forwarded to CDC for final confirmation.
“Having the capability to test here in the state will further enhance our response as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve,” said OSDH State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed. “The public health laboratory continues to serve as a valuable asset in the state’s response to disease outbreaks.” Understanding that the situation is rapidly evolving, coronavirus.health.ok.gov is a source for regularly updated information. The OSDH will also soon be activating a call center for questions and information on COVID-19
Recently, Oklahoma’s ever-growing public health infrastructure has received a top tier rating from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) in its level of preparedness to respond to emerging public health threats. The report based the ranking on emergency readiness measures such as public health funding, seasonal flu immunization rates, public health lab capacity, hospital preparedness and public health agency accreditation. The OSDH has an expansive network of local, state and national partners who are trained and prepared for a public health emergency such as an infectious disease outbreak. “The OSDH is always investing in our communities and working with our preparedness partners statewide to protect and improve the health of Oklahomans,” said Commissioner of Health Gary Cox.
There is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. However, like any other respiratory illness, the public can protect themselves with frequent handwashing, avoiding contact with the eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; and staying home when sick. Individuals who have recently traveled through an area affected by the outbreak are encouraged to self-report to a health care provider or to the OSDH by calling the Acute Disease Service at (405) 271-4060 if they begin to experience symptoms.