Notice: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak – What You Need to Know
A new respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) type of coronavirus has been spreading around the world, including the United States, since it was first detected in Wuhan City in China. The virus is being referred to in the media as the coronavirus. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019,” abbreviated COVID-19.
It is important to understand that coronaviruses are part of a large family of viruses that are commonly found in many species of animals. Not all coronaviruses cause disease in humans, and even when they do, that disease is minor (for example, some coronaviruses are responsible for the common cold). Sometimes, viruses found in animals can infect people and then spread from person to person. This is what seems to have happened with COVID-19.
COVID-19 has now been detected in multiple US states, including California. At least one case has been confirmed in San Diego County as of March 5, 2020.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for more information on the current status of COVID-19 in the United States. The County of San Diego is also providing information about the local response.
Symptoms and Severity
COVID-19 causes a respiratory illness much like influenza (“the flu”). It is important to understand that it can cause a range of illness from mild to severe, with 80% of those infected experiencing mild to moderate symptoms. Symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Again, most infections will cause mild to moderate symptoms, but severe cases can potentially result in death. COVID-19 is fatal in approximately 2% of cases.
People who think they have or have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
Prevention & Treatment
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus. This is true for all viral diseases. CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you can, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from people who appear to be ill in public or at work.
- 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. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. You should also wear a facemask if you are the caregiver for someone who is infected.
- 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. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
The treatment for COVID-19 is the same as for other respiratory diseases such as colds and the flu: rest, fluids, and supportive care to relieve symptoms. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary. At this time there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19.
It is very important not to panic! The COVID-19 outbreak is serious and spreading globally, but remember that the vast majority of cases are mild to moderate. Common-sense precautions can protect you and your family. However, as authorities work on containing the spread of the virus, there may be disruptions to your regular routine. It is possible that some schools, workplaces, and public facilities could be shut down or restricted if a localized outbreak does occur. If you don’t have one already, consider preparing a family emergency plan. Steps to take include:
- Get information from reliable sources (CDC is an excellent resource). Do not rely on unverified information from the internet. Bookmark the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency website for updated information.
- Get a flu shot. This will not protect you from COVID-19, but getting the flu could weaken your immune system and make your more susceptible to other infections.
- Wash your hands.
- Have a sensible supply of non-perishable foods.
- Have at least a 30-day supply of essential prescription medications.
- Keep over-the-counter symptom remedies on-hand:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
- Have a reasonable supply of essential household items such as laundry detergent, diapers, and pet food.
- Contact your children’s school to learn how they plan to respond if there is a local outbreak.
- Schools may close, so plan for alternative childcare if necessary.
- Talk to your employer to see if they have plans for implementing telework or other work options in the event of a local outbreak.
Most people don’t know how to correctly and thoroughly wash their hands. Follow these steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Count slowly to 20 or hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or allow them to air dry.
Use a hand sanitizer when you can’t use soap and water, but don’t rely on them. Hand sanitizers are not effective on all types of germs, and may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
The CDC has a flyer you can print and share in your home or workplace.