Educating about what you can do to reduce the chance of contracting or spreading the new coronavirus is the plan of attack by state and local health officials and elected leaders – ahead of any confirmed case of COVID-19 in Missouri.
“Over the past several weeks, our team has been collaborating with a robust network of response organizations to provide timely and accurate information in preparation for the possibility of a COVID-19 case in Missouri,” Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Tuesday during a press conference with Gov. Mike Parson in Jefferson City. DHSS has been taking steps to prepare for a potential outbreak since January 27. “Our number one priority is to protect Missourians, and while the risk still remains low, we will continue working with Governor Parson and all of our partners to ensure we are as educated and prepared as possible should the need arise.”
COVID-19 is spread by coming in contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person. It is believed to have a 14-day incubation period.
In St. Louis County, County Executive Sam Page, who is a medical doctor, took to Twitter and You Tube to post a video about COVID-19 prevention efforts.
“We must be prepared and educated. We must be ready to respond at a moment’s notice. But we must also keep these things in perspective: there is no reason to panic,” Page said. Page’s remarks included a demonstration on how to properly wash your hands with hand sanitizer.
Earlier this week, World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Knowing and understanding your epidemic is the first step to defeating it.”
Ghebreyesus added that this is a unique virus with unique features.
“This virus is not influenza. We are in unchartered territory,” Ghebreyesus said. “We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures.”
Although there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in Missouri yet, the number in the U.S. is growing, including a deadly outbreak at a nursing home outside of Seattle. Nine deaths are reported in Washington state. The Centers for Disease Control, which is fending questions about accuracy and availability of test kits, says state counts will always be the most up to date as the CDC updates its figures midday.
“The greatest risk of infection is with people who are in contact with persons with COVID-19,”Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said.
She added while most cases of new coronavirus infection are mild, persons who are older with preexisting health conditions have had more severe illness with risk of serious outcome. She said if you are age 65 years and older – think about what actions you can take to minimize your exposure. Preparation includes having adequate supplies of medication you regularly take,
Messonnier also asked for patience and understanding during this outbreak, and if a health provider tells you to stay home, please do that. She said if you are sick, “Staying home for two weeks when you are ill is really important.”
Health officials maintain the best approaches to protect against the new coronavirus are the things individuals can do to prevent influenza. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, avoid touching your face with your hands, avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, and if you are coughing or sneezing then stay home until you feel better and your fever is long gone.
If you do cough or sneeze, do it into your sleeve, or use a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately into a closed rubbish bin, and then clean your hands.
The WHO adds more specific steps to take, including: cleaning surfaces regularly with disinfectant, including kitchen areas and work desks, and educating yourself about COVID-19 from reliable sources – your local or national public health agency, the WHO website, or your local health professional.
Everyone should know the symptoms: for most people, the illness starts with a fever and a dry cough, not a runny nose. Most people will have mild disease and get better without needing any special care.
The WHO says to avoid traveling if you have a fever or cough, and if you become sick while on a flight, inform the crew immediately. Once you get home, make contact with a health professional and tell them about where you have been.
If you are over 60 years old, or if you have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe disease. You may wish to take extra precautions to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick.
If you are sick, stay at home, and eat and sleep separately from your family, use different utensils and cutlery to eat. If you develop shortness of breath, call your doctor and seek care immediately.
“It’s normal and understandable to feel anxious, especially if you live in a country or community that has been affected,” Ghebreyesus stated. “Find out what you can do in your community. Discuss how to stay safe with your workplace, school or place of worship.”