Update 3/26/20: Since the initial publishing of this article, the situation has changed quite a bit. COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic by WHO. Please review the CDC’s guidelines for the most up-to-date information.
It’s all over the news and dominating international headlines. But how much should you worry about contracting COVID-19, the newest coronavirus strain creating panic around the world?
The answer is: try not to.
This is not to say the virus isn’t serious. It is new and full of unknowns. However, it is never productive to panic about any public health crisis. All you can do is take reasonable steps to protect yourself, and these are the same common-sense steps we recommend to protect against other viruses like the flu.
It is believed the virus can spread person-to-person, meaning you need to be in close contact (6 feet or less) with someone who is infected. If you have not traveled to China recently, or been in close contact with someone who has, you should not panic about contracting the virus. (That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but again, panicking is not a productive step!)
While our understanding of the virus is growing every day, at this point the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assesses the immediate health risk from COVID-19 to be low for the general American public.
Is the coronavirus more dangerous than the flu?
In fact, at the time of this writing, the flu presents a greater threat to us here in America than COVID-19. The flu has sickened at least 29 million people so far this season, hospitalizing 280,000 and killing 16,000 — and these are the conservative estimates. By contrast, COVID-19 has sickened 53 people in the US with zero deaths to date.
It is true that the mortality rate is higher for COVID-19 than the flu (2.5% vs. less than 1%), but in the US, we’re not seeing the high numbers of infections that are present in China. So, by and large, the immediate threat from coronavirus complications for us is not as concerning.
COVID-19 impacts the weak and/or immunocompromised segments of the population the most. This includes the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, and those who are malnourished or suffer from certain medical conditions/illnesses. For everyone else in the population, contracting the virus would likely just lead to flu- or cold-like symptoms and would end with a full recovery — just like most people recover from the flu.
What should I do to protect myself from the coronavirus?
According to the CDC, the recommended preventative measures against COVID-19 are as follows:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wear a face mask if you show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Should I see a doctor if I suspect coronavirus symptoms?
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include cough, fever, sore throat, and difficulty breathing. If you have these symptoms, and particularly if you have traveled internationally lately, you will want to be seen by a doctor. It is advised to call ahead before visiting the doctor’s office instead of simply showing up. This will allow them to either prepare appropriately or direct you to a healthcare office better suited to treat you. You will also want to wear a face mask before you arrive, and avoid using public transportation to get there.
In and Out Express Care is here for you! If you have concerns about your health, call one of our urgent care clinics in Hampton Roads. We’re here to help keep our community healthy and safe!