By Dr. Dan Loiselle, Chief Medical Officer
I’m sure you’ve all seen the media reports about the coronavirus, and many of you have questions. The situation is changing daily, and our knowledge of the virus is expanding rapidly.
While there is talk of the coronavirus leading to a worldwide pandemic, it’s important to note that we have not seen a confirmed case in Maine, and the virus has sickened fewer than 100 people nationwide.
So, while it is prudent to plan and prepare, there is no reason to be alarmed.
What is coronavirus?
The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that causes fever, cough, and shortness of breath. For confirmed coronavirus disease cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness. Approximately 2 percent of cases outside of the U.S. have resulted in death, primarily in the elderly and people with preexisting conditions.
How is coronavirus spread?
The Centers for Disease Control believes the coronavirus is primarily spread from person-to-person between people who are in close contact — generally within about 6 feet. The virus travels on droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may also be spread if someone touches a surface that has the virus and then touches their own mouth, nose or eyes. However, this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads.
People are thought to be most contagious during the time they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Based on current data, the CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 (the illness caused by the coronavirus) may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
The steps you should take to protect you and your loved ones are similar to those you follow to guard against a cold or the flu.
Most importantly, 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 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Cough and sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands. Or use a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Stay home when sick
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects (like your cell phone) and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
It should be noted that the CDC is not currently recommending face masks for the general population.
If you become sick
Stay home except to get medical care
People who suspect they have been sickened by coronavirus should limit activities outside the home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
Limit contact with others in your household. Try to stay in a specific room and if possible, use a separate bathroom.
While there have been no reports of coronavirus making pets sick, the CDC recommends limiting contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If you do not have someone to care for your pet while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask
Call ahead before visiting your doctor
If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.
What if coronavirus is found in our community?
At InterMed, we are closely watching the situation and are preparing to activate our emergency preparedness plan if needed. We will provide more updates as the situation develops.