By Dara Koppelman, Chief Nursing Officer
As media coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak increases, we continue to receive more questions from our participants. Understandably, people wonder if they need to worry about this outbreak, and what they should do to prevent it in their own communities. Even though we haven’t seen any active cases in the DC area, it is important that we understand the actions we can take to prepare for and prevent the Coronavirus from spreading.
What is the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)? It is a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. Chinese health authorities have now confirmed thousands of infections and over 100 deaths. On January 30th, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). The first case in the United States (US) was identified in Washington state on January 21, 2020. As of January 31, 2020, a total of 6 positive cases have been reported in the US; five are travel-associated and one local transmission. On January 31, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the case definition for patients under investigation (PUI).
There is an ongoing investigation to determine more about this outbreak, and new information is being released as it is gathered. In the meantime, we urge you to be aware of ways you can prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
We are also in the middle of a very bad flu season, and many symptoms of the Coronavirus are similar to those of the flu. It is important to get a flu shot if you have not done so already. You can prevent the spread of the flu in similar ways that you can prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses with these simple steps:
- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- avoid close contact with people who are sick
- stay home when you are sick
- cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- get a flu shot and encourage your friends and family to do so
It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of Coronavirus, and to notify your healthcare provider about any recent travel or contact with sick people if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- non-productive cough
- shortness of breath
- muscle pain
Human Coronaviruses is most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
- the air by coughing and sneezing
- close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
- rarely, fecal contamination
Currently, there is no standard medication or treatment for Coronavirus, which is why it is so important that you take all the possible preventive steps to avoid the spread of this virus, as well as other viruses such as the flu.
Mary’s Center is committed to being your partner in primary care and we value your questions and concerns. To learn more about our medical services, click here.