PALESTINE — Several Sanderson Farms employees were asked to stay away from work, as an “extreme precautionary measure” against the potentially deadly Coronavirus disease 2019, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

“We have simply asked that if any of our employees have traveled or been in an area where there has been a confirmed case that they stay away from work,” Sanderson spokesman Bob “Pic” Billingsley told the Herald-Press Tuesday. “We are doing this as protection of our 1,100 employees.”

Fourteen confirmed cases in Texas come from Greg, Collin, Harris, and Fort Bend Counties. Other states with confirmed cases include Florida, Kentucky, Oregon, New York, California, Washington, and Utah.

Anderson County has no confirmed case of COVID-19. “The state will notify me immediately if we have anyone test positive,” Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston said.

On Tuesday, a Sanderson employee who seemed panicked called the Herald-Press, asking about rumors that several employees, up to seven, had been quarantined because they contracted the COVID-19 virus.

“No one is in quarantine,” Billingsley, director of development and engineering, said. “This is just an extreme precautionary measure taken by Sanderson Farms to proactively protect their employees.”

Employees with possible contact with the virus have been asked to stay away from the plant through the time it would take for them to become symptomatic. That could last up to two weeks. Symptoms vary, but cold or flu-like symptoms typically set in from two to four days after a coronavirus infection. The period of quarantine is 14 days from exposure.

Billingsley also said there is no indication Sanderson's poultry could or will be affected.

DSHS, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and other state agencies continue to prepare state government for efforts to limit the spread of the virus and protect Texans. The immediate risk to most Texans remains low.

Prevention and risk-reduction measures include hand-washing, covering coughs, and staying home from work or school when feeling ill. Avoiding mass gatherings and crowded shopping areas also can reduce exposure.

Neither flu nor COVID-19 responds to antibiotic treatment. Currently, the only treatment for both is by treating the symptoms, such as reducing fever and suppressing coughs.

Those at the greatest risk are infants, elderly and those with chronic illnesses, such as heart or lung disease.

For more information, contact Texas Department of State Health Services or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.

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