Over the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard about COVID-19, also called the coronavirus. With regard to you and your health, Pack Health is monitoring the situation along with you. We want to share what we know, what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, and let you know that we’ll offer support during this uncertain time.
What is it?
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus, a new virus that has spread extensively across the globe. There are now over 100,000 cases worldwide and more than 1000 cases in the United States, with more cases being confirmed every day. Since it is a new disease, there is still much that is unknown about it, but experts are starting to understand how it spreads and the spectrum of illness that can occur.
How is it spread?
The virus spreads between people who are in close contact through respiratory droplets from a cough or a sneeze of someone who has COVID-19. We also know it’s possible that someone can get COVID-19 from a surface or object contaminated with coronavirus and then touching their face. The best way to protect yourself is to not get sick, which is why strict hand hygiene and trying not to touch your face is important.
Where is it in the United States?
For the most up-to-date information about the spread of COVID-19 here in the U.S. and around the world, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. Public health officials believe that it will likely continue to spread across the U.S., and possibly to all 50 states. That means it’s especially important to protect yourself and your loved ones and to stay up to date on the latest guidance.
Who does it affect?
Potentially everybody, but according to the CDC, the population at a higher risk of getting really sick are:
- People over the age of 60
- People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are cough, fever, and fatigue. Other symptoms that have been described are a runny nose, myalgias (muscle aches), sore throat and diarrhea. If you have a fever and any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor, who may advise you to stay home and rest. Most people will show mild or no symptoms, but others can become very sick. If you develop any of the following “red flag” symptoms, or other severe symptoms, get medical attention immediately:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Bluish lips or fingers
What should I do?
First off, don’t panic! While this is a new and uncertain disease with new information coming out daily, you can take steps to protect yourself and your community. Most importantly, protect yourself by practicing good hand hygiene and avoiding close contact with people who may be sick. The CDC defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of someone who’s experiencing symptoms. If you do have any symptoms, make sure you cover your cough, wear a mask if you have to go out in public and follow your local guidelines about staying home. Also, make sure you’re getting reliable information. The CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) are respected public health organizations that regularly update their websites with accurate and timely information, including what actions you should take to prepare.
Since hand-washing is so important, here’s how to do it properly.
If you are someone with a higher risk of getting very sick, be safe and make sure to follow the CDC-recommended measures to protect yourself. It is recommended that you have extra medications on hand in case you cannot leave your house for an extended period of time and to keep extra household essentials around if you cannot go to the grocery store. If you need any help, please reach out to your Health Advisor and we can help you understand what you need and to try to use our network of resources to assist you. For example, your Health Advisor can help you arrange delivery of groceries, household items, or medications. You are not alone!
If you do get sick or are told to stay home for other reasons, we know that this can be a confusing and scary time. Please reach out to your Health Advisor if you have questions or need some extra support. We’re here for you!
You can find further information here on how to prepare your household for COVID-19 and what you can do before an outbreak occurs in your community. Ask your Health Advisor for help or reach out if you just need someone to talk to.
Check back here periodically. We’ll be sure to update you as the situation develops.
Vipul Shah, M.D.
Clinical Director, Pack Health