St. Catherine Hospital doctor addresses COVID-19 outbreak

Until about 15 years ago there were only four known coronaviruses, then SARS emerged and then a few years later there was MERS, said Dr. James Zauche, a pediatrician and COVID-19 spokesman at St. Catherine Hospital.

All three viruses originated with some kind of animal and then altered in some fashion to become infectious for humans, Zauche said.

Like SARS and MERS, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, Zauche said.

“The infection causes symptoms very similar to what we would commonly associate with influenza — fever, cough, shortness of breath,” he said. “It's quite uncommon to have stomach or intestinal kinds of symptoms. They tend to be respiratory.”

COVID-19 has been identified in nearly every state, Zauche said, but there’s a “very low incidence in Kansas at this time in contrast to Seattle or New York.”

While not widespread in Kansas, Zauche said St. Catherine’s has been working with the Finney County Health Department to prepare in the event COVID-19 spreads to the Garden City area.

Zauche encourages people to access the FCHD website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website if they are concerned they might have COVID-19.

On the FCHD website there is a phone number for the Finney County Coronavirus COVID-19 hotline.

The website gives information and updates on COVID-19 in Finney County and the state of Kansas, facts about the virus and what people should do if they think they are sick to prevent the spread and if they need to see a doctor.

If sick, the website says to call the hotline first before going to the doctor. The number is 620-272-3600.

If the FCHD determines someone has a potential case and they need to come in to be tested, the health department will give them instructions on how to get care without exposing others.

In case of critically ill patients with potential COVID-19, call the St. Catherine Emergency Department directly at 620-272-2290.

Zauche said the majority of people who catch the virus will not get seriously sick.

Those patients are advised to stay home and take measures similar to if they had a cold or the flu.

Zauche said staying home protects “the rest of the community from the virus that they might be shedding.”

The potential incubation period for the virus is 14 days, but the average is only four days from the time of exposure, Zauche said.

“The problem is people can start shedding the virus before they start feeling sick,” he said. “That is why people who are coming back on cruise ships are being quarantined for 14 days. Because we don't know if or when they're going to get sick.”

That’s why it’s important for people to be informed about the virus and why they should stay home if they feel ill, Zauche said. Someone doesn’t have to be seriously ill to spread the virus.

“Most of the people who get the infection are not going to be seriously sick, and we need to give them information so they don't spread it to some elderly, sickly person who could get seriously sick,” he said.