Putting the Coronavirus into Perspective
The recent outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), which first appeared in China, has garnered much media attention, raising health concerns across our communities. However, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared Novel Coronavirus a public health emergency, it still considers the risk in the U.S. to be low at this time.
Out of an abundance of caution, Memorial Hermann has taken proactive steps to safeguard the health of its workforce, patients and community by implementing a protocol specific to Novel Coronavirus based on CDC guidelines. These safeguards are in addition to those already in place across our facilities to help prevent, detect and treat all infectious diseases, including influenza (flu), which kills about 35,000 people in the U.S. each year and continues to be a greater threat to our community.
The situation is being closely monitored, and the CDC will release new information as it becomes available. To keep up with the latest news on the outbreak, visit the CDC’s website, http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
What is Coronavirus?
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is part of a large group of viruses that are commonly found in animals. In rare cases, an animal coronavirus can infect humans, and then spread from person to person. Other examples of coronaviruses that you may be familiar with include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The COVID-19 is a new identified type of coronavirus that was recently discovered in Wuhan, China, and is the cause of a new outbreak of respiratory illness.
How Does it Spread?
Experts do not fully understand how COVID-19 spreads from person to person.
Most of what is known is based on knowledge gained from similar coronaviruses in the past. In those cases, the infection spread mainly through close contact with infected people who cough or sneeze. This is similar to how influenza (flu) spreads.
As with most respiratory viruses, experts believe that people infected with COVID-19 are the most contagious when they are the sickest and display respiratory illness symptoms. However, it may be possible for an infected person to spread the illness even if they are not showing symptoms.
Symptoms of respiratory illness can range from mild to severe and usually include:
- Shortness of breath
How to Protect Yourself
Right now, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends a few everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including the flu. These preventive actions include:
- Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- 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.
What to Do If You Have Symptoms
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately to discuss your symptoms and travel history. Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our patients, staff and the community at large.
What Additional Safeguards Does Memorial Hermann Have in Place?
Memorial Hermann has taken proactive steps to protect our employees, physician partners, patients and community by implementing a workforce protocol based on CDC guidelines. This protocol includes screening members of our workforce who have traveled to China within the applicable time period, or who have had contact with someone who is under investigation for COVID-19 or has been confirmed with the virus. Based on screening results, we will then provide information on immediate next-level care or mandatory paid leave for employees for up to 14 days, as necessary.