As we continue to monitor the outbreak of the respiratory illness caused by Coronavirus Disease 2019, known as COVD-19, I wanted to offer you the most recent information and recommendations.
Most importantly, do not panic. The prevailing opinion is that while community spread may occur, most cases will be mild. Over 80% of COVID-19 infections do not require hospitalization; however the risk of more severe infection does increase with age and among those with weakened immune systems.
No cases have been identified in Delaware. While this may change as testing becomes more readily available, we don’t see it spreading widely in our communities at this time. Becoming ill with flu remains a much higher risk in the U.S., and in Delaware particularly, with over 5,000 cases this season.
What we know about the coronavirus: Part of a large family of viruses, human coronaviruses include some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a new, or novel coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. It is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms of COVID-19: Fever, cough and shortness of breath may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. Be aware though, that other conditions such as flu or pneumonia can cause fever and coughs; testing for COVID-19 is only recommended if you have also had close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of the virus. These include China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore.
Treatment: Treatment consists of isolation and supportive care to relieve symptoms. There are currently no antiviral medications that have been proven to be effective.
Prevention: There is no vaccine yet available for COVID-19, so the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Public health agencies around the globe are keeping a careful eye on COVID-19 and taking steps to prevent community spread. The CDC urges all to do their part to help respond to this emerging public health threat. Most essential is to try and stay healthy:
- Get your flu shot if you haven’t already done so
- Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, including:
- Wash hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
- 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.
- Please note: don’t purchase facemasks to protect yourself. Facemasks are in short supply now, and should be used only by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to prevent the spread of disease, and by health workers and others who are caring for COVID-19 patients.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 (visited one of the affected countries in the last 14 days or had close contact with a person confirmed with COVID-19 infection; feel sick with fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing):
First, call your physician to discuss a plan. They can help you determine your next steps. Testing for coronavirus is being done only through public health offices at this time. For information, contact the Delaware Public Health Coronavirus call center at 1-866-408-1899.
Next, follow CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others.
If you are traveling or planning a trip, know the high-risk areas to avoid: check CDC’s travel health notices related to this outbreak.
For additional information, I recommend these reputable sources which are updated regularly:
Finally, keep calm and positive. We will get through this together.
Yours in good health,
Uday Jani, MD