WAHOO – While the immediate risk of the coronavirus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat:
“It’s currently flu and respiratory disease season and CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine, taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals if prescribed,” said Terra Uhing, executive director of Three Rivers Health Department.
Uhing said healthcare providers should be on the look-out for people who recently traveled from China and have a fever and respiratory symptoms. If a healthcare provider is caring for a coronavirus patient or a public health responder, they should take care of themselves and follow recommended infection control procedures,” she said.
Uhing also said also at risk are those people who have had close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus who develop symptoms.
“Contact your healthcare provider, and tell them about your symptoms and your exposure to a coronavirus patient,” she said.
Uhing said although much is unknown about how the coronavirus spreads, current knowledge is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats,” she said. “Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS and now with the coronavirus.”
Uhing said most often, the coronavirus spreads from person-to-person by those were in close contact, about six feet.
“Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread,” she said.
“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear if a person can get the coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”
If a person was in China in the last 14 days and feels sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, Uhing recommends they should do the following:
Seek medical advice and call ahead before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and symptoms.
Avoid contact with others.
Do not travel while sick.
Cover mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
Wash hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
When asked if the public should buy face masks, Uhing said her answer is no.
“You do not need to use these in everyday activities,” she said. “If you are going into your healthcare provider’s office, hospital or a long-term care facility please follow their guidelines if you are not feeling well.”