COVID-19 has become a top concern for health officials in the United States.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a dire waring, urging communities across the United States to prepare for the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respirator Disease said during a press call on Tuesday.
As of Wednesday, there were more than 81,000 cases in U.S. and around the world, with four new countries reporting their first confirmed cases of COVID-19. More than 2,700 people have died.
The outbreak first started in Wuhan, China, in 2019; by Wednesday there were 40 countries with the virus.
In the US, the number of cases was at 57 on Tuesday, and it’s already in our backyard, with at least on confirmed case in quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
Healthcare officials believe this global epidemic may reach pandemic status soon.
The CDC is working with our health systems, first responders, county and municipal health departments, to ensure they have the resources they need to respond.
“We know through our work with the CDC in planning for disease outbreaks it is best to prepare now,” said Levine.
Christina Crockett, Anderson
County emergency management coordinator, said she and her crews are staying abreast of all information being released from the CDC daily and urging everyone to use common sense practices in the wake of this virus.
“If you are sick or not feeling well, stay home,” said Crockett. “If your children are not feeling well, keep them at home. Be diligent to wash your hands and use all preventative measures to be proactive in staying healthy.”
Palestine Mayor Steve Presley is also keeping a close eye on reports from the CDC, as a city administrator, as a pharmacist and the city’s emergency management director.
“We will be ready to follow the CDC’s guidelines in Palestine, if that becomes necessary,” said Presley.
Presley noted that people could lower their risk with preventative measures, like avoiding being in contact with those that ill are, those that have the virus and those that have been exposed, and by washing your hands and avoiding touching services touched by the masses – like doorknobs.
The administration and staff at Palestine Regional Medical Center are also being proactive in the wake of this medical threat to the community.
“Palestine Regional Medical Center is committed to providing the highest quality care and ensuring the safety of our patients, employees, providers, volunteers and visitors,” said Victor LeGloahec, senior director of operations and business development at PRMC. “We are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure our hospital is prepared with the appropriate plans to detect, protect and respond should anyone in our community contract or be exposed to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
“While we have not evaluated or treated any patients with this virus at our hospital to date, we have taken the following measures to prepare out of an abundance of caution, in accordance with CDC guidelines:
• Patients in the Emergency Department and inpatient units are screened based on their recent travel history.
• Personal protective equipment is available, including face masks and eye protection, for example.
• Hand hygiene products are easily accessible throughout the facility.
“Importantly, all of the above are standard operating protocols that are in place year-round to help ensure the health and well-being of everyone who enters our hospital.
“We want to assure our community that our providers and clinical teams are well-trained and prepared to manage outbreaks of viruses and infectious diseases, including the coronavirus.”
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine website, the symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to seasonal influenza. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses that cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches and fatigue and can result in pneumonia. Both can sometimes cause vomiting and diarrhea. And both can be spread from person to person by sneezing, coughing or talking.
The CDC believes, at this time, the symptoms of COVID-19 can appear in as few as two days and as long as 14 days after exposure.
Prevention and risk-reduction include hand-washing, covering coughs and staying home from work or school when you feel ill to help control the spread of both illnesses.
You can also reduce your exposure by avoiding mass gatherings, avoiding crowded shopping areas, and keeping a 6’ distance from people until the risk is over.
Neither flu nor COVID-19 responds to antibiotic treatment. Currently, the only treatment for both is by treating the symptoms, such as reducing fever, cough suppressant, etc. Both illnesses can be severe and can require hospitalization.
Johns Hopkins says there is some evidence that COVID-19 could be airborne, meaning air could cause the disease to spread in others after the ill person is no longer in the area.
Those at the greatest risk are infants, elderly and those with chronic illnesses, such as heart or lung disease.
There is no vaccine at present to protect people against the COVID-19. At least 39 vaccine development programs are underway; however, it took almost two years to develop a vaccine for SARS. By the time the vaccine was available for human trials, the outbreak was over.
The good news is, due to the similarities between COVID-19 and SARS, as well as advances in quickly decoding viral genetic information, scientists have been successful in developing a genetic sequence that will be useful for developing a vaccine. But, production could be up to a year at way.
At this point, it looks like the US could be faced with shifting from containment to mitigation. If that is the case then government and health experts will push to reduce to the effect of the outbreak, instead of eliminating the virus.
One of the biggest issues is that scientist have not found a connection in the fatality rate. They don’t have a valid reason why patients fare better in some places and decline faster in others.
“You could have bad outcomes with this initially until you really get the hang of how to manage it,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, an envoy for the World Health Organization, who led the team of scientists to China.
According to the WHO, in the city where the virus began, 2 to 4 percent of the patients have died, but in the rest of China, the death rate was only 0.7 percent. There’s nothing different about the virus between the locations.
SARS, a viral cousin to COVID-19, caused a far deadlier severe acute respiratory illness outbreak in 2003 and 10 percent of those patients died.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Health reports that the flu is in a different virus family, with some strains deadlier than others. While millions of people get the flu every year, with a fatality rate in the hundreds of thousands. But as a percentage, on average, the death rate for the flu is approximately 0.1 percent.
The problem with comparing the death rates between flu and COVID-19 is that China may not have an actual record of all deaths related with the virus. Government health officials believe the Chinese government initially tried to keep information about the illness and the severity of the spread of COVID-19 under wraps.
Price gouging for this medical epidemic has already begun.
The US government urged Americans to begin to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the states on Tuesday, recommending people buy medical mask to help protect themselves. By Wednesday, just 24-hours later, the online prices for medical face masks rose by $95.
According to data from Keepa, on Amazon, one pack of disposable masks, priced at $125 on Sunday, were $220 a pack on Wednesday. Keepa tracks price changes on Amazon.
The disease could also have an affect on world-trade, commerce and food supplies.
On Wednesday, Coca-Cola said if the coronavirus continues to spread, it could impact the production of Diet Coke and other low-cal drinks.
The delivery of sugar alternatives from China used in Diet Coke and its other zero-sugar drinks have been delayed. To get ahead of the situation, Coke has begun a contingency supply plan to cover the short-term impact.
And this is only the beginning.
For more information, contact Texas Department of State Health Services or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.