The word coronavirus now sparks emotion within our community. As with all mysteries, it is best to be armed with the facts. We know that coronaviruses are common and typically cause mild upper-respiratory illness. Human experience with more aggressive coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Since January of 2020, the world is watching the behavior of the novel (new) coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. An estimated 80% of people who become infected will have very minor symptoms, similar to a cold or flu. Early in infection (2-14 days), the infected person may have no symptoms at all, so keep your distance in the coming weeks.

Most people are wondering how to protect themselves and those that they love from this infection. Here are a few tips from the Centers for Disease Control.

♦ Avoid exposure – by staying 6-10 feet away from other people, particularly if they are coughing or sneezing. Since there is no vaccine, all people are susceptible to this virus. Because of this lack of immunity, social distancing is recommended. This strategy is most effective when the infection can be transmitted via droplet contact (coughing or sneezing); direct physical contact, including sexual contact; indirect physical contact (e.g. by touching a contaminated surface) airborne transmission (if the germ can survive in the air for long periods). All of these transmission types apply to coronavirus. The cancellation of travel, sporting events, concerts and other large public gatherings is based on the need to avoid exposure of a large number of people at the same time.

♦ Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds – After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, when you have touched surfaces in public places, before eating or touching your face. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is effective when soap and water are not available.

♦ Avoid touching your eyes, nose & mouth with unwashed hands.

You might wonder, what do I do if I feel ill or think I’ve been exposed?

♦ Stay home if you are sick. As long as your symptoms are manageable with usual cold remedies, stay home and give yourself time to get well. Avoid public areas such as work, school or public areas and transportation.

♦ Stay away from others, in a separate room and bathroom, if possible. Limit contact with pets.

♦ If you must be around others, wear a face mask.

♦ Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissues in a lined trash can. Wash your hands afterward.

♦ Avoid sharing personal items such as dishes, utensils, towels and bedding and wash all after use.

♦ Clean high touch surfaces every day, including doorknobs, faucets, toilets & electronic devices (phone, remote control, tablets, etc.). Any household cleaner or wipe will effectively kill the virus.

♦ If you develop worsening fever (over 100 degrees), shortness of breath or cough, call your doctor. Tell them if you believe you have had an exposure to COVID-19 before you go to your doctor or urgent care. Wear a face mask before entering the healthcare facility

♦ Call 911 if you have a medical emergency. Tell the dispatcher that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19.

As a community, our leaders have come together to ensure collaboration in keeping our community as healthy as possible and prepare for managing the virus locally. You can make a difference with the choices you make each day, starting today.

Dr. Julie Barnes is the chief medical officer at Redmond Regional Medical Center.

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