Three cases of novel coronavirus COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced this afternoon.
DeWine declared a state of emergency in Ohio following the revelation.
"The state of emergency that I've declared in #Ohio is a legal necessity that allows state departments and agencies to better coordinate in their response," DeWine tweeted today.
All three of the people who have tested positive for the virus are in Cuyahoga County, according to the governor. A couple in their 50s who recently returned from a cruise on the Nile River and a man returning from a conference in Washington, D.C. are the patients who have the virus.
Coronaviruses are a broad category of virus that cause the common cold, among other illnesses. COVID-19 is what scientists call the new "novel" form of the virus — one that hasn't been encountered before and one which epidemiologists do not yet know how to combat.
International health officials say the global mortality rate for COVID-19 is currently hovering around 3.4 percent. But that rate includes the very high proportion of early deaths reported in Wuhan, China — where the virus first made an appearance and where the high number of cases overwhelmed health facilities. Across the rest of China, the death rate is much lower — about .7 percent.
Cases of the novel virus had previously cropped up in a number of U.S. states, including Kentucky and Indiana. Those cases have caused 22 deaths in the U.S., mostly of older individuals or those with other chronic illnesses. There are about 110,000 cases of the virus globally, epidemiologists estimate.
Hamilton County Health Department officials last week detailed their preparations for the virus when it reaches Hamilton County. The City of Cincinnati will hold a summit tomorrow involving social service, medical, education and other professionals around spotting symptoms and best practices for responding to the virus. That summit will be live-streamed and video recorded for the public.
The Ohio Department of Health has set up a hotline for information about the virus. You can call 1-833-4ASK-ODH for more information.