What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a new variant of a very common family of viruses called coronaviruses, which cause respiratory tract infections ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Though most commonly found in animals like cattle, cats, and bats, coronaviruses can in some cases infect and spread between humans.
How is it transmitted?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is passed through coughing, sneezing, close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, or touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth without washing hands. In short, it is passed along like a cold or flu.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of COVID-19 can range from no notable signs to severe breathing difficulty. Fever and cough are the most common symptoms, whereas shortness of breath is rare but indicates a more serious form of the illness. Symptoms may appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure.
Are there documented cases in the United States?
As of February 29, 2020, the U.S. has over 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Most of these individuals were evacuated to the U.S. from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and they’ve all been hospitalized in isolation since their arrival. To date, there was one confirmed death linked to the virus near Seattle, WA, there are also several cases of individuals infected in the U.S. with no travel history that would tie them to the virus. For more details, the CDC is reporting on U.S. cases here.
Prevention & Treatment
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease in 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including We, recommend practicing good hygiene in the same way you would protect yourself from colds and the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- 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.
- 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 wearing 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. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- 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.
These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.
While a vaccine is in development, at present, current established medications commonly used to treat the common cold & flu are ineffective in preventing or treating COVID-19.
At this point, since the overall risk is still very low, wearing a mask is unnecessary. Further, specialized medical masks are in limited supply nationwide and are reserved for first responders, health care providers, and highest-risk patients. We will continue to monitor and keep you informed, as to any and all action to be taken as individuals or we will contact you if you should need closer monitoring.
Should I be tested?
As of February 28th, 2020, the CDC recommends that health professionals contact their local department of public health for people who:
- Have traveled to an area affected by COVID-19 in the past 2 weeks or been in close contact with someone who has a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19.
And have any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
The CDC also recommends considering COVID-19 among individuals with severe respiratory illnesses that require hospitalization, without any history of travel or known exposure to the virus. Recommendations will continue to change as we learn more about the virus. The CDC website has a list of countries that have confirmed cases of COVID-19, but the level of risk in each country will vary day to day while more information is gathered. Currently, there’s no commercially or publicly available test for the virus that causes COVID-19, so all testing is being coordinated by local health services.
Determining Exposure and What to Do?
If the above applies to you, your Care Team at Alliance can be reached 24/7 with overnight on-call physicians, we are a phone call away. We will walk you through the self-monitoring process or arrange to get you to a secured infection control care and treatment facility.
Where can I go to have my symptoms evaluated in person?
If you believe you have the COVID-19 symptoms, Alliance is equipped with fully functioning Tele-Health services, you avoid coming into the Alliance office or other health care facility unless directed to do so by your care provider via the Tele-Healthcare Physician/Provider. Only a limited number of healthcare facilities in the US are currently equipped to diagnose COVID-19. Your Alliance Care Team works closely with the Hudson County and NJ Department of Health The Care Team will coordinate getting you to the best care facility in your area for testing and if tested positive we will stay involved in your care and treatment at the best facility in New Jersey, equipped and ready to treat patients identified with the COVID-19 Flu infection…
Does my age cause me to be more vulnerable?
Like the flu, people over the age of 60, those who are pregnant, or on medications that weaken the immune system (such as chemotherapy or immunomodulators) are at higher risk of infection and complications of infection. If you fall into one of these categories, you may want to consider limiting extensive group and crowd exposure, stay updated on any known COVID-19 transmission in your area, washing hands, and limiting touch of the face and mouth and nose after shaking hands or close contact/intimate contact with recent travelers from the affected areas around the globe should be followed.
Will medications like Tamiflu help?
Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and other prescription medication are ineffective for treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Since this current outbreak overlaps with the typical flu season, you might benefit from medication if you’re having symptoms, as they’re more likely to be caused by the typical influenza virus. For anyone with a cold, flu or similar illness, we recommend plenty of rest, good hydration, and over-the-counter medications for symptom control as needed.
What about traveling?
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Department of State has issued travel advisories for several countries. If you must travel to an area that is currently affected by COVID-19, the CDC recommends protecting yourself by doing the following (in addition to the recommendations in the previous section):
- Discuss travel to countries known to have experienced an outbreak with your healthcare provider. Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease.
- Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
As of February 29, 2020, the CDC has issued guidance about travel to the following destinations:
Warning Level 3:
CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations:
- China Travel Health Notice
- South Korea Travel Health Notice
- Iran Travel Health Notice
- Italy Travel Health Notice
Alert Level 2:
These destinations are experiencing sustained community transmission of COVID-19. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.
Watch Level 1:
CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to the following destinations. Travelers should practice the usual precautions.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know may have had contact with someone affected by COVID-19, and are experiencing fever, cough, or trouble breathing, please contact your Care Team at 201.451.6300 as soon as possible. And remember, while COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, most people affected recover fully.
Your Alliance Care Team – 201.451.6300
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