Coronavirus: Should you be concerned?
Coronavirus, named by the CDC 2019-NCoV, has arrived in the United States. Reports of severe illness, hospitalization, and death have prompted many questions about the risk to ourselves and our families here in Gainesville, Florida.
When faced with questions regarding communicable diseases, the best source of information that I have found is the Center for Disease Control website: CDC.gov. It is CRUCIAL that objective, scientific sources be sought instead of second or third (or fourth or fifth) - hand reports from friends, social media, and even news reports.
While a physician such as myself may revel in the opportunity to dig her metaphorical hands into a great scientific perusal of information for healthcare professionals at the CDC website, this may not be the layperson's cup of tea. The website DOES have a public page on the virus that is excellent, and I encourage you to take the opportunity to go to the site and learn first-hand about the coronavirus, the symptoms of its associated illness, and its transmissibility.
This is the most recent report from the CDC of the presence of cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States. There is no current recommendation for identification of people with respiratory illness that have traveled to those states.
However, there is a decision -tree algorithm that hinges on TWO things: symptoms, plus exposure to a person known to have the virus, or travel to Wuhan China within the past 14 days. The following chart is directly from the CDC website.
Clinical Features&Epidemiologic Risk
1) Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing)and In the last 14 days before symptom onset, a history of travel from Wuhan City, China.
– or –
In the last 14 days before symptom onset, close contact with a person who is under investigation for 2019-nCoV while that person was ill.
2) Fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing)and In the last 14 days, close contact with an ill laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV patient.
How the virus is transmitted is currently under research. Scientists are following models they used with the MERS and SARS outbreaks to evaluate this. Right now, the theory is that it is spread via respiratory droplets. Someone coughs, sputum containing the virus exits the person's body, the sputum is picked up by another person and enters his or her body through the mouth or nose.
In the meantime, the best way to avoid infection with 2019-nCoV is the SAME method to prevent transmission of other illnesses:
1) cough into the crook of your arm, not onto your hand
2) if you have a respiratory illness, and must be among others, consider wearing a face mask
3) use hand sanitizer frequently when soap and water are NOT available. Soap and water handwashing is better than hand sanitizer in preventing some virus spread (norovirus).
4) TEACH YOURSELF NOT TO TOUCH YOUR FACE, especially your mouth or nose.
These are the methods that we use in our practice at Gainesville Direct Primary Care Physicians, and we see sick patients every day.
Please contact your physician if you meet the criteria above, and as always, we remain available to our members for questions and concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.