The novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus and causes coronavirus disease that began in 2019 (COVID-19). They are being used interchangeably in the news right now but reference the same virus. Prior to the new one, other coronaviruses already existed and cause mild illness like the common cold. Our current understanding of COVID-19 suggests that most people who become infected will not become seriously ill and will not need hospitalization. Those with serious illness may need hospital care including respiratory support or treatment for dehydration. Physicians and staff at Glacial Ridge Health System are preparing for a potential outbreak in case it does reach central or west-central Minnesota.
The novel coronavirus seems to be spreading from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes within 6 feet of another person. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses who are nearby. It is gross, but it happens all the time, multiple times a day. The common cold, influenza, and other sicknesses are passed from person to person in the same way. As of current knowledge, the virus does not live on surfaces very long outside of a human body – hours up to a day. If COVID-19 starts circulating in our community, these precautions are key in keeping you and your family healthy – and preventing the spread of it if someone is symptomatic.
Prevention is Key. What can you do to prevent getting or spreading COVID-19?
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available.
- Cover your cough and sneeze every time. Use a tissue and throw it away, or sneeze into your elbow if you must (never your hand). Then wash your hands again and anything nearby that may have virus particles on them.
- As a rule, do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. Remember COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets.
- Wipe down surfaces, especially ones frequently touched, with soap and water or a regular household disinfectant. Your standard cleaning supplies will kill the coronavirus.
- STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK or if you are caring for a sick family member, and separate yourself from others in your home when you can. If possible, use a different bathroom to avoid contaminating faucets, door handles, and more.
- If you develop early signs of illness, CALL THE CLINIC FIRST – DO NOT head straight to the emergency room or walk-in clinic where you might infect others inadvertently. Recommendations to help relieve your symptoms will be given over the phone; an antiviral medication is currently not available for COVID-19. Under the direction of the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, the clinic or hospital staff may give you additional instructions or ask you to come in for testing. CALL FIRST.
- You can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Have a plan in place in case you need to quarantine yourself or a family member for 14 days. Can you work from home? Stock up on foods such as chicken noodle soup, rice, and other foods that have a longer shelf life so you do not have to go to the grocery store. Ensure you have adequate drinking water, an extra bottle of acetaminophen on hand, etc. If you take daily medication, do you have a 14-day supply or is there someone who can pick it up and bring it to you if you are ill? If you are sick, daycare is closed, or there is no school, who will take care of children or other others you generally care for?
Facemasks Not Recommended by CDC
For people who are well, wearing a mask will not protect you from COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases according to the CDC, and it is not recommended. However, people who are coughing or sneezing should wear a mask to help prevent the spread of viruses. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone who is ill. Masks are most effective when used in combination with the prevention tips above, such as proper handwashing, and must be disposed of properly.
Because this is a new virus, there is still more to be learned. Updates given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the MN Department of Health will continue to change and evolve. There is more to learn about transmissibility and severity. Stay informed by going to the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.