be vigilant, be safe | Daily News


 

COVID-19:

be vigilant, be safe

        With a growing number of cases of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) confirmed across the world, having a sore throat or some sniffles might feel like a cause for concern. But in most cases, there is no reason to worry, experts say.  If you have symptoms of the Coronavirus, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, here are the steps that doctors and public health officials recommend you take.  While researchers are still learning about the new Coronavirus, most people sickened by it appear to
With a growing number of cases of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) confirmed across the world, having a sore throat or some sniffles might feel like a cause for concern. But in most cases, there is no reason to worry, experts say. If you have sympt

With a growing number of cases of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) confirmed across the world, having a sore throat or some sniffles might feel like a cause for concern. But in most cases, there is no reason to worry, experts say.

If you have symptoms of the Coronavirus, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath, here are the steps that doctors and public health officials recommend you take.

While researchers are still learning about the new Coronavirus, most people sickened by it appear to not get all that ill.

“The one thing we really don’t need is mass hysteria,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an infectious diseases professor. “Eighty percent of people have such minor symptoms, they don’t actually require any medical care at all. The 20 percent who do feel quite ill need to be evaluated, and some of them will require hospitalization and some of them will require intensive care.”

Those most at-risk for severe symptoms include senior citizens and/or people with underlying medical conditions, such as cardiovascular or lung disease, cancer or diabetes, he said.

If you are worried you might have the Coronavirus, pick up the phone before you seek medical treatment. The reason for this is twofold: In very mild cases, your doctor might be able to give you advice on how to treat your symptoms at home without needing to see you in person, which would reduce the number of other people you expose.

“The vast majority of cases are going to be mild, and people are going to recover just like they do from a cold or flu-like illness,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an infectious diseases doctor.

mild symptoms

In more serious cases, where medical treatment might be necessary to assist with breathing issues or other problems, an urgent care centre or a hospital emergency department will benefit from advance notice of your arrival. They may have a special entrance they want you to come in through so you don’t expose other patients on your way in, or a mask they want you to put on, Adalja said.

Not everyone needs to be tested, experts say. If you have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with the Coronavirus or have recently travelled to an area where the virus is spreading, and you develop a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you call a health care professional for guidance on whether to be tested.

In Snohomish County, Washington, where there are at least four confirmed cases of the Coronavirus, officials urged the public to call their health care provider if they think they have been exposed or feel ill with “only mild cold symptoms.” They advised against going to an urgent care clinic or a hospital to get tested in those situations. “Doing so displaces other patients who truly need urgent care and increases the risk of spread of respiratory infections in health care settings. Furthermore, there is little personal health value in pursuing COVID-19 testing of patients who are not severely ill or part of a public health investigation,” the Snohomish Health District said in a statement.

Even if you have not had prolonged contact with known Coronavirus patients, but are concerned you might have caught the illness, calling your doctor first is the best course of action.

“If you have any anxiety or reason to believe you have Coronavirus infection, or even if you have influenza, call your health care provider, because you don’t want to just show up in the waiting room and give it to everybody else,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

What your doctor recommends you do will depend on the severity of your symptoms.

Shortness of breath, an unremitting fever or feeling extremely weak require medical attention, which could include visiting an urgent care centre or an emergency department, according to Johns Hopkins’ Adalja.

“Otherwise, I would treat it symptomatically. That might include taking medicine to reduce fever, or cold and flu medicines to reduce symptoms,” he said. “Don’t go to work and spread it to your co-workers. Don’t go to the gym. Hunker down,” Schaffner said.

Because the Coronavirus is believed to be most contagious when patients are symptomatic, the CDC has asked those with it to isolate themselves until their cough, fever and other symptoms go away — which is likely to be at least a week or two. But because much is not known yet about the virus, the contagious period could be longer than that, Murphy added.

For close contacts of the infected person, or those who have had prolonged contact within six feet of a confirmed patient, the CDC considers the incubation period to be 14 days, during which they should be quarantined and monitored for symptoms.

As for others in the community with whom those close contacts have been in touch, “the contact of the contact is probably not going to be a problem. Now, if the person gets sick, they move up the ladder and then they’re a real contact,” Murphy said.

The Coronavirus is believed to spread mostly through respiratory droplets — which are dispersed when a sick person coughs, the Rhode Island Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken said over the weekend. Most people should still go about their normal lives.

“If someone is not exhibiting any symptoms, there is no need to change your daily routine,” he said.

While the CDC has warned that people should be prepared for a Coronavirus outbreak in their communities, guidance on how to stay healthy has mostly revolved around commonsense measures, including washing your hands and not touching your face.

Avoid large gatherings

Those who are medically frail or elderly should take extra precautions to not expose themselves to the virus by avoiding large gatherings, experts said. For others, making any major changes is an individual decision, not an edict.

“We certainly ought to be prudent,” Schaffner said. “Maybe I’ll watch TV instead of going to the movies. This is maybe not the time to go out and spend a lot of time at the mall shopping.”

But, Schaffner pointed out, those are good measures to avoid the cold and flu anyway.

“Please don’t panic. Remember that even if you should have Coronavirus infection, most of the infections, we’re now learning, are fortunately rather mild,” he said.

Some researchers are also racing to solve the enduring mystery of where the newly identified virus came from.

The Coronavirus, which first sickened people in China in December, is thought to have passed from animals to humans, like many similar pathogens, but nothing has been confirmed yet by any peer-reviewed scientific research, global public health agency or academic expert. Beyond that, little is known about its origin.

Early research suggests that the virus closely resembles a known Coronavirus harbored in horseshoe bats, according to Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading in England. “What is not clear is the steps that moved the virus out of the bat, into some intermediate source or sources, and then finally into man,” Jones said.

But scientists say the virus’ similarities to known coronaviruses in animals — particularly bats — rule out the idea that it was created in a lab.

To trace a virus to its source, scientists typically look for clues in its molecular makeup. Chinese scientists published the Coronavirus’ sequenced genome less than two weeks after the first case in humans was reported — a lightning-fast development made possible by advancements in technology.

“This would have taken us six months to a year to do before,” said Gene Olinger, a Maryland-based virologist at MRI Global, a scientific research organization that is helping to develop diagnostic tools for the Coronavirus. “We had those first sequences almost immediately — that’s unheard of.”

The virus’ genome can’t tell scientists everything about its source, but the string of DNA sequences functions almost like a blueprint for this type of detective work.

Many coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, which means they spread from animals to people. And there is precedent for Coronavirus outbreaks that originate in bats and spill over into humans through an intermediate animal. An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003 is thought to have spread from bats to civet cats before the first human patient was infected.

(NBC News)

 


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