Facts, not fear: Monitoring coronavirus disease
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued some advice regarding the new coronavirus disease formally dubbed COVID-19: Share the Facts, Stop Fear.
The top takeaway from the CDC fact sheet that can be found on the agency’s website along with a wealth of information on everything from status updates to disease basics, risk factors and prevention tips is this: “The risk of getting COVID-19 in the U.S. is low.”
“For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low,” the CDC states.
That’s the good news, at least for those of us in the U.S., and those of us who do not need to travel to countries, such as China where COVID-19 first appeared.
The CDC also explains that coronaviruses are not “new” but a large and varied “family” of viruses.
Some are serious, such as SARS, which can cause severe respiratory distress.
Others don’t affect humans at all or, if they do, they cause symptoms similar to the cold or flu – cough, fever and shortness of breath.
Those are the symptoms of COVID-19 and they can run from mild to severe.
Here’s the bad news:
… “The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.”
It’s much more serious than that with nearly 3,000 deaths now reported worldwide. And, yes, the “novel” or new strain has now been found in the U.S. with the first case reported on Jan. 21. As of March 2, two deaths due to the disease have been confirmed.
This is why the CDC is closely tracking the “emerging, rapidly evolving situation” as is the Florida Department of Health, which also has a web page dedicated to information on COVID-19 with updates on the disease and its progression into the Sunshine State.
As of the morning of March 2, there were two “presumptive positives” – lab test positives awaiting CDC confirmation – here in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health. As of March 9, there was one confirmed fatality and one “presumptive” positive for the disease in Lee County.
So what are the symptoms of the disease, how is it spread, who is at risk and what can we do as the situation unfolds?
First, the symptoms, as stated, are fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you have traveled to China, or other impacted country, the CDC says to advise your doctor.
It is spread from person to person who come into close contact – about six feet or less where respiratory droplets can be inhaled.
While you may be able to get it from touching a surface, it does not appear that is how the virus is spread, the CDC reports. It also does not appear, that it can be picked up from products or pets or from someone released from quarantine.*
We’re all advised to use plenty of soap and water, washing our hands for at least 20 seconds when sanitation is called for and that we not touch our eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
The CDC urges those who are sick to stay home and to cover all coughs with a tissue that can be properly discarded.
Get a flu shot. Make sure everyone in your family has a flu shot.
While there is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, the flu can cause similar impact among the same high-risk groups – the young, the old, those with compromised immune systems and those who work in health care.
In the U.S. alone, 34,157 people died from the flu last year, down, thankfully, from the 61,000 the flu season before. Nearly half a million were hospitalized last year with 810,000 hospitalized in 2017-18. The flu, in fact, is the current risk with numbers here in Lee County higher than those seen last flu season.
For more information – i.e. the facts – on COVID-19 visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html or floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/.
*The World Health Organization has released a Q&A on the virus as the disease has progressed:
How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
– Reporter editorial