Forewarned is forearmed in the case of the novel coronavirus, which American health officials believe will affect the nation's respiratory systems in coming weeks. (Courtesy of CDC)
Courtesy of CDC

The World Health Organization reported the coronavirus outbreak has 105,586 confirmed cases (3656 new) – with China registering 80,859 confirmed cases and 3,100 (27 new) deaths. With the U.S. confirming 164 cases and 11 reported deaths, across 19 states (including California, Maryland, and D.C.), health bodies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, are wading in to determine how best to treat those infected and halt the spread to healthy populations. This, as many Americans continue to debate the strength of outbreak claims and the potential seriousness of the virus.

“How is the Coronavirus any different than the flu itself? It this something that is being blown out of proportion because of outside factors, politics, or even xenophobia? I do not trust the media reports, but I am also concerned that not taking precautions – in the event this is actually serious – could be deadly,” University of the District of Columbia senior Jordan McAllister told the Informer. “I feel like I need more information.”

McAllister’s sentiments echoed across the nation’s capital, with many residents saying the news of contaminations had yet to hit the District and so they felt relatively safe. To that end, the rituals of socializing publicly and traveling had not altered.

Others, like grocery store shelver Royce Bullock, said that they were taking serious steps to ward off the virus – as they would germs in general during cold and flu season.

“I work in the public, I handle boxes, cans, jugs and store items that folks are picking up and putting back all day long. For me it’s like working with children where you have to assume that no one has washed their hands, everything has some type of bacteria on it, and you have to work accordingly,” Bullock said.

He noted that he works with gloves on that start out white and by mid-shift have dust, oils, and indiscernible stains all over them.

“I do not touch my face and I wash my hands for at least two minutes – soap, scrub with a brush under the nails, and up to the elbow, like the doctors,” he said laughing. “My apron is placed in a bag before I leave the store and tossed into the washing machine at home immediately because I don’t want those germs spread to my car or inside my home.”

The added precautions are necessary as health organizations continue to investigate the outbreak and work to develop suitable treatment protocol. In a February 28 CDC telebriefing to update media on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, described measures undertaken by CDC to identify and investigate those suspected of coming in contact with COVID-19.

“At this point in our investigation, we are most focused on symptomatic people who are closely linked to confirmed cases or had travel history. But our criteria also allows for clinical discretion,” she said. “As public health professionals, we know that there is no substitute for the astute clinician on the frontlines of patient care.”

Messonnier said during any infectious disease response there is a great need for test manufacturers to rapidly make testing available in clinics, in hospitals, and at the bedside for People Under Investigation (PUIs).

“This is part of a huge effort within the U.S. government led by HHS,” Messonnier said. “CDC will continue to report case counts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Our priority continues to be getting accurate diagnostic capacity—and doing so quickly—because we know public health surveillance is critical to our fight against this novel coronavirus. To date, our strategies have been largely successful. As a result, we have very few cases in the United States. And while we may be confronting the first instance of community spread, we are working very hard with our state and local public health partners to find out more.”

Naturopathic Doctor Dr. LaJoyce Brookshire told the Informer that being proactive against the Coronavirus will help keep Americans healthy when it arrives.

“The CDC announced that it is not a matter of if the coronavirus is coming to America with an epidemic, but when, so we need to stay on the side of prevention. I need you to keep your hands clean with things like wintergreen alcohol and witch hazel – I like to make a mixture with peroxide so I can spray my hands and spray down surfaces,” Brookshire said. “What’s dangerous about the Coronavirus is that it lives on surfaces and that makes it especially dangerous.”

Brookshire also advises that Americans boost their immunity by adhering to the lifestyle wisdom of elders that included listening to our bodies and resting as needed.

“Go to bed, drink your green juices, drink plenty of water, eat healthy soups and fresh meals that you make at home so that you are able to stay on the side of wellness instead of trying to repair the body afterwards,” Brookshire said.


Tips to Avoiding Coronavirus

Courtesy of the World Health Organization

Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least a 3-foot distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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