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The Coronavirus is without question the most pressing concern when it comes to public health at the moment. In order to help our readers better understand the virus and how they can keep themselves and their family’s safe and healthy, our expert Nurse Practitioner, Melanie Lacy has answered some questions about this recent health phenomenon.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19 by the medical community, is a new virus that has emerged in humans over the last couple of months. It was first found in humans in Wuhan, China but has since been spreading by human contact across the globe. Coronavirus is similar to other viruses like SARS and MERS that were initially found in camels, cats, bats, and cattle.
What is a Virus, really?
A virus is a very small infectious agent, much smaller than a bacteria, that replicates once it is inside of a living organism. Other familiar viruses you have heard of include Influenza, Measles, Hand Foot and Mouth, and the common cold.
Is there an antibiotic I can take in case I am exposed to Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, no. Bacterial infections like Strep Throat, Sinusitis, and Urinary Tract infections can be treated successfully by antibiotic medications. Viral infections like Corona replicate rapidly in their host and therefore are unable to be affected by antibiotics. This is the same reason why your healthcare provider will often tell you that antibiotics are not indicated when you have a cold or >the flu.
I heard Coronavirus is here in Atlanta. Am I at risk?
It is true that an individual and his son who returned from Italy have been infected by Coronavirus. However, the risk for Atlantans remains low as these two individuals and their families have been in quarantine in their home. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is determining risk based on travel to known hot spots for the virus or contact with symptomatic individuals returning from these locations. The locations currently at highest risk are China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, and Italy.
So, if medication does not work, how can I protect myself?
More information is currently being collected on how Coronavirus is passed. As of now, it is believed to be spread by close contact or respiratory spread. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected individual for a prolonged period of time. Respiratory spread means contact with secretions of an infected person, for example when a person coughs or sneezes near you. It is NOT believed that spread can occur with brief exposures such as passing an infected individual in a crowded area. The absolute best protection is hand washing.
How do I wash my hands effectively?
Proper, effective hand washing must last longer than 20 seconds with effective antibacterial soap in a good lather. You can sing happy birthday twice to estimate the time it takes to clean your hands. Also, avoiding touching your face, hair, eyes and nose is important. Watching this fun clip from Ellen DeGeneres can teach you everything you need to know and will keep you smiling too!
Unless you are ill, a face mask is not indicated. The Coronavirus can easily pass through a basic face mask, plus droplet spread means that the virus would be on your face and hair as well. Studies show that people wearing a mask tend to touch their face more which increases the chance of illness. N95 masks are specific to use by healthcare workers caring for infected individuals. These masks require an intensive fit test not available for the general public. Please do not attempt to purchase these masks online as the limited supply needs to be reserved for healthcare providers.
What should I do if I think that I am exposed?
If you are seriously ill and think you may have been exposed to the virus, call 911 and let them know your risk factors for Coronavirus. If you or a loved one is concerned that they may be exposed to Coronavirus, STAY IN YOUR HOME. Do not go to Urgent Care, the Emergency Room, or to Family Practice Center. Although we love seeing our patients for any other reason, we do not have the testing supplies or the ability to protect our patients and staff effectively from the Coronavirus. We recommend calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center directly at 770-488-7100.
We hope you found this information helpful. This blog is meant to inform, not frighten. However, this is obviously a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. For more information, please contact Family Practice Center today and follow along with us on Facebook and Twitter.