Coronavirus Disease 2019 (2019-nCoV): What You Need to Know
The spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has the world concerned about its potential impact. The death toll is rising and every day more people are being diagnosed with the virus. We've rounded up all the information you need to know about how to protect yourself from this fast-moving illness.
What is it?
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. It is believed be spreading person-to-person, although it may have originated in animals. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), individuals who have been diagnosed with this illness have experienced the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
When Should I Call My Doctor?
If you have recently been to China or have been in contact with someone who has traveled there, and you are exhibiting symptoms within 14 days of possible exposure, please contact your doctor's office to discuss your next steps, which may include diagnostic testing by the CDC.
If you are returning from China and you do not have any signs or symptoms, you do not need to take any action or visit your physician. Much is still unknown about this virus, particularly the transmission, and a visit to the country does not necessarily mean you are in danger.
What Should I do to Protect Myself and Others?
While there are currently no vaccines to protect you against the coronavirus, the risk to the American population is currently very low. Americans have been advised to restrict travel to China, and there are steps you can take to further prevent illness. "As with many viruses, one of the best ways to protect yourself is to wash your hands often," says Donna Sears, Sturdy Memorial Hospital's Infection Control. "If you cough or sneeze make sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, then throw the tissue away. If you do not have a tissue, cough into your elbow. Germs are often spread through respiratory droplets."
Additional prevention tips include:
- Staying home if you're sick to avoid coming into contact with others.
- Using disinfectants to clean areas that are commonly touched- like door handles, light switches, and countertops- which make it easy for germs to silently travel from one person to another.
- Wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and before eating.
While media coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak is alarming, only 6 cases have been diagnosed in the United States, and 7,700 cases confirmed worldwide as of January 29, 2020. In contrast, this season there have been more than 15 million cases and 8,200 deaths from influenza (the flu) thus far in the US alone. Hand washing is your best protection against both, and it's not too late to get your flu shot!
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Sturdy Memorial Hospital Emergency Department has implemented a screening process where all patients are asked about recent travel to China within the past 14 days. Any patients determined to be at risk for having contracted this virus will be appropriately isolated and cared for in close conjunction with Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The Emergency Department at Sturdy Memorial Hospital is open 24 hours a day. We are equipped to handle some of the most serious situations life has to offer, and see close to 50,000 visits annually.