The Gallatin County Health Department issued news today that an individual with travel history from mainland China is being evaluated at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital for an illness. They are not saying that this individual has the coronavirus, but as a precautionary measure, the individual has been placed in isolation and is being evaluated in a manner recommended by current guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designed to prevent cases of novel coronavirus.

In Montana, local and state public health officials have worked with 10 to 15 individuals who have travel history in China during the current outbreak but do not have any current symptoms of concern. Five of those individuals have been in Gallatin County, and are cooperating with Gallatin City-County Health Department and DPHHS to monitor their well-being and minimize potential exposures.

Gallatin City-County Health Department (GCCHD) and Bozeman Health are collaborating closely with partners at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the CDC to coordinate care for the individual, assess the cause of the person’s illness, and limit any risk of exposure to others in the hospital or community.

An important component of the national and international effort to limit the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus, local health departments all over the nation are working to monitor individuals in the U.S. with a recent travel history in mainland China.

“This is not unexpected,” said Matt Kelley, Health Officer with Gallatin City-County Health Department. “We have many people from our community traveling the world, and we have been preparing for this situation. Just because someone is not feeling well does not mean they have novel coronavirus,” Kelley said. “But we are using an abundance of caution so that risk to others is minimized. Now is the time for vigilance and caution, but the public should know that the risk to others in Montana is very low.”

This local monitoring is part of a much larger effort to take all necessary precautions to make it as difficult as possible for the disease to spread. One element of this effort is to make sure that individuals with a travel history to China who become ill receive high-quality medical care in a manner that reduces possible exposure to others. This means that sick individuals with exposure may be placed in isolation as a precautionary measure while local, state, and federal public health officials and health care workers investigate the situation and care for the individual who is sick.

The Gallatin County Health Department says in the release that it's important to note:

  • At present, one individual is in isolation and we do not know if that person has contracted novel coronavirus. Isolation is a precautionary measure that has been recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
  • While public health officials are taking all necessary precautions, it is worth noting that most people with a travel history to China who become ill do not have novel coronavirus. As of Monday, CDC reports that roughly 330 people in the U.S. have been tested for novel coronavirus and only 12 have tested positive for the disease (less than 4% of those tested).
  • Based on current information, local public health officials in Gallatin County believe the person currently in isolation had limited exposure to the community, which reduces the risk to the public. At present, we believe there is a very low risk to anyone in Gallatin County for exposure to novel coronavirus.

Representatives with Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital said the organization is prepared to care for patients requiring any special precautions. Patients who come in to the hospital are appropriately evaluated, and if a patient is identified as needing special precautions, specific protocols and processes are immediately implemented for the care and safety of all.

Employees caring for patients with precautions in place use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for that individual, which can include the use of air purifying respiratory systems. In any situation where a patient has precautions in place, Bozeman Health leadership and clinical teams are in frequent contact with Gallatin City-County Health Department and the CDC. The expert care, safety and privacy of all patients remains Bozeman Health’s highest priority, hospital officials said.