Coronavirus is a family of viruses that cause illnesses similar to the flu. The newest strain is known as nCoV or COVID-19 and was first identified in China. The virus outbreak is not contained and spreading. All countries are on high alert and working to contain and prevent spreading.
The symptoms to watch for are similar to those of the flu. Respiratory symptoms such as fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing are the first signs. They can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
More severe cases are developing into pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death. Those with weakened immune systems and the elderly are more at risk for severe symptoms.
Treatment and Prevention
At this time, there is no vaccine to treat COVID-19. Those with symptoms should seek supportive care from medical professionals. More severe cases will need to have care that supports vital organ function. If you think you have been exposed, contact your doctor immediately.
Prevention is the best action to take. Avoiding exposure to the virus will be the best protection. In addition to this, there are preventative measures you can do to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.
Stay at home: Even if you are only mildly ill, stay home. Restrict activity outside the home except for getting medical care. Avoid public areas and public transportation.
Separate yourself: Stay away from others as much as possible. Keep yourself in a specific room if you share your home with others. Limit exposure to pets. While no reports of infected pets have been made, it is recommended to avoid them until more information about the virus is known.
Cover up: Cover your mouth anytime you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and then throw the tissue away. Afterwards, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol if soap is not available.
Call the doctor first: Call ahead before you go. This allows the doctor to get the office prepared for your visit. They need to protect other patients in the office, in the event you are infected and carrying the virus.
Wear a face mask: Wear a face mask if you are sick and around other people. If a person is unable to wear a mask because of breathing difficulties, then others need to. Wear a face mask anytime you are in the same room as a sick person. Health care workers are also required to wear face masks when caring for an infected individual in close settings.
Clean your hands often: Wash hands thoroughly after eating, going to the bathroom, and after touching common surfaces. Again, use hand sanitizer when soap is not available. If your hands are visibly dirty, soap and water are the better options. Avoid touching your hands to your face.
Do not share: When sick, do not share household items like dishes, utensils, cups, towels, or bedding. Wash any items used by a sick person right away and thoroughly.
Clean: Clean all surfaces that are highly touched with soap and disinfectant. These surfaces can include:
- Bathroom fixtures
Monitor your Symptoms
Monitor your symptoms carefully. Notify your doctor immediately if there are any changes or worsening of symptoms. If asked to return to a healthcare facility, be sure to wear a mask and advise them you are coming in. Your doctor will need to alert the local or state health department. Depending on your symptoms, you may be asked to enter active monitoring in a facility. Follow all instructions given by your doctor and the health department.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency such as trouble breathing, call 911. If you suspect that you have COVID-19 or have been exposed, be sure to alert the 911 operator. The medical team arriving to help you needs to be prepared to protect themselves from exposure.
If you have been advised to isolate yourself at home, please remain there until instructed to leave. The risk of secondary transmission needs to be low or removed before you should leave isolation. Talk to your healthcare provider about staying home and precautions to take. Every case will be different so consulting with your doctor and health department will be the safest course of action.