The novel Coronavirus has been all over the news. The epicenter of the current outbreak was reportedly identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.
We asked Cathy Fischer, Manager of Infection Prevention at CarolinaEast Medical Center, for her advice and she said, “The Coronavirus is a group of viruses that have been around for a long time and most of the time cause something like a simple cold. What we have circulating now is a new and novel Coronavirus that causes an illness named COVID-19. In most people, COVID-19 is a relatively mild illness and you won’t even require medical treatment. Older people and/or those with other illnesses such as lung disease, cancer, or diabetes have more severe cases. I believe the most important message is that it is coming, we should prepare, but don’t panic. For most people it will be a mild illness.”
There are a lot of unknown factors, but most experts agree that healthy, younger people may have mild symptoms. That’s great news for that population!
I’m truly concerned about protecting people who have compromised immune systems ending up in the hospital with serious illness or even dying. It’s an eye opener and I believe that if we all take this seriously and take preventative measures, it may help limit its spread if cases appear in our community and wherever you travel.
There’s a lot of misinformation about COVID-19, but there is data if you want to see it for yourself. Look at the mapping website that tracks the worldwide spread of the coronavirus outbreak at John Hopkin’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The number of people confirmed as infected in the United States on February 28 was 70. On March 7, it increased to 428 people confirmed as infected and 19 deceased. Why am I saying “confirmed”? Because that’s the number of people who were actually tested by the CDC as positive and were reported. It’s not accurate because the number of tests that are available are scare, and hospitals are unable to conclusively determine if patients have COVID-19 without the tests.
During the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing on March 6, Vice President Pence said, “All state labs can conduct the tests. Beyond that, between March 2nd and 5th, will be distributed 900,000 tests across the country. Including 200,000 that could allow 75,000 individual patients to be tested.” Dr. Anthony Fauci followed up by saying “One test doesn’t equal one patient”. So, it’s unknown how many people have been tested, but to put things into perspective, New York City has 73 confirmed cases and has a population of approximately 8.6 million people.
Although the disease is spreading, there is no need to panic. We are a resilient country and I have faith in the infectious disease researchers and scientists. We as citizens can all do our part to help limit the spread!
New Bern hasn’t had any confirmed cases and the COVID-19 tests are not yet available in Craven County. Please know that there is a local Task Force for COVID-19. Cathy Fischer assured us, “There are local, state and national teams working daily and led by public health authorities, local Health Departments, State Health Departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
She also mentioned, “We are screening for travel to a known outbreak area (identified by the CDC) or known contact with a confirmed case. It is important for everyone to realize that the majority of patients will not be sick enough to even seek medical care but if they do need medical care and suspect they have been exposed – they should call ahead. All cases do not need to go the Emergency Department and a general rule is don’t go to the Emergency Department unless it’s for something that you would go for if we did not have Coronavirus.”
How can you protect yourself and others?
According to the The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they recommend:
“If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:
Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others
When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
Avoid crowds as much as possible
During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible.”
Avoid touching unnecessary surfaces. Wash your hands for 20 seconds (if soap and water isn’t available use hand sanitizer after touching any public surfaces). Avoid handshakes and touching your face. Stay away from sick people.
Prepare you/and your family:
– What’s your plan if you have children and schools close? Could you work from home? What are your childcare options?
– If you became infected and were required to self-isolate? Do you have enough food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, prescription medication, pet food, and other necessities to stay at home for several weeks?
Thinking about local first responders and healthcare workers, I asked if they had enough personal protective equipment (PPE). She responded, “At this time we have sufficient PPE. All people should remember that face masks will not protect you from Coronavirus. This requires an N-95 mask and these are designed for healthcare workers. We do not want the community purchasing and donating PPE because that will deplete the supply for us to order from.”
Please be patient with your healthcare provider. They are putting their health on the line every day to take care of us. Please heed to their screening standards. It will have a crippling effect on all of us if they get sick. Keep in mind this also includes administrative, laboratory, food service, security, housekeeping staff, students, volunteers…and everyone behind the scenes.
For details about the novel coronavirus, visit the CDC’s website.