Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Page updated: February 20, 2020 9:45am

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has established a call center to answer questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington State, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, call the DOH hotline at 1-800-525-0127 and press #.


A new type of coronavirus, called 2019 novel coronavirus has been identified. On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced that the official name for the disease caused by this virus is COVID-19.

The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China and has never been seen in humans before December 2019. Since then it has spread throughout China and to other international locations, including the U.S.

This is an emerging disease, and what we know about the virus is evolving with time. Disease investigators are working to find out more about:

  • How severe the illness is.
  • How it spreads.

We will provide updated information as it becomes available.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They usually cause mild respiratory illnesses like the common cold, but there have been coronaviruses that cause more severe illnesses, like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that can cause severe illness and complications like pneumonia. Learn more in our Novel Coronavirus Fact Sheet (PDF).

How do I know if I’m at risk?

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Whatcom County. Although this is a serious public health threat, at this time, the risk of infection to the public in Whatcom County and the rest of the U.S. is low.

A person’s individual risk depends on their exposure to the virus. Some people have an increased risk of infection, such as:

  • Close contacts of a novel coronavirus patient.
  • Healthcare workers caring for a novel coronavirus patient.
  • People who have traveled to China in the past 14 days.

What can I do to prevent getting sick?

There are basic steps people can take to reduce their risk of getting any kind of viral respiratory infections, like colds or flu. Prevention steps include:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay away from other people who are sick. 
  • If you are sick, stay home to prevent spreading the infection to others.

What is the Whatcom County Health Department doing?

We continuously prepare for and train to respond to public health threats just like this one. We work closely with the CDC, Washington State Department of Health, our colleagues in other local health departments, and our local health care providers so that we can identify and respond to any infections as quickly as possible.  

Currently, we have:

  • Issued advisories to Whatcom County health care providers with guidance on how to identify and evaluate people at risk for this new infection.
  • Increased our disease surveillance efforts.
  • Prepared for a rapid response should a confirmed case be identified.

Resources for Additional Information