Coronavirus germs

Coronavirus (COVID-19): What you need to know

Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

The outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is cause for concern but not panic. The UVM Health Network is working with the Vermont State Health Department and New York State Department of Health to coordinate our preparedness efforts based upon guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our highest priority remains providing safe, quality care for all of our patients. 

Below you will find more information about how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and steps to take if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms.

REMEMBER! If you have a fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, if possible, call your primary care office first to speak to a provider.

Home care may be the best option for the majority of our community members who get sick.

What is Coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO): Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause respiratory infections in humans, from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms and how do they compare to the flu or common cold?

The symptoms are a cough, fever and shortness of breath. The symptoms are similar to the flu, though we do consider this more serious than the flu.

If you are experiencing cough, fever or shortness of breath, call your primary care office first to speak to a provider.

How is it transmitted?

COVID-19 spreads through droplets in the air, so coughing and sneezing can spread to nearby people. It’s likely that it can contaminate surfaces as well. The incubation period is thought to be 14 days, however this may change as more about the virus is understood.

How can I prevent it?

Basic preventive practices are those that we should be using all the time:

Clean your hands frequently – use portable alcohol hand sanitizer and wash your hands before you eat. Don’t touch your face. Avoid crowded spaces. Avoid traveling to countries the CDC has highlighted as having widespread, sustained transmission. Social distancing is something that will become increasingly more important –schools, conferences and other organized activities will need to consider this on a case-by-case basis.

If you’re sick, stay home. Clean your hands. Wash high-use surfaces every day. If you’ve been in a place where the virus is circulating, call your primary care doctor to get advice. Do not go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Department unless you’re short-of-breath, or otherwise need urgent medical help. 

I recently came back from traveling and now I have a cough. Should I come in to be tested?

The first thing you should do is call your doctor’s office and describe your symptoms. There is a lot of flu and cold going around, and the symptoms are similar. We don’t want you to go to the Emergency Department or Urgent Care unnecessarily. 

I have a cough and a fever. What should I do?​

If you’re sick, stay home, practice vigilant hand hygiene, and cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.​

Call your doctor’s office and describe your symptoms. They will be able to advise you on next steps. 

How is it determined when someone needs the testing?

Right now, there are certain criteria with the Vermont State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health and the CDC in order to perform the test.  However, as time progresses, this may become a more routine and frequent test.

Is there treatment?

There is currently no known proven treatment. There are some experimental drugs being studied. However, in more severe cases, patients can get supportive care (ex. oxygen, IV fluids, etc.), if needed.

Are we prepared?

The UVM Health Network’s highest priority is to provide quality care to patients while maintaining a safe workspace for staff.  Response protocols have been developed through the organization’s significant experiences with similar health care scenarios.  A multidisciplinary team is coordinating preparedness and tailoring plans as more information comes in from across the globe. The group includes front line health care providers, senior leadership, patient placement, supply management, industrial hygiene, staff educators, emergency preparedness practitioners, facilities management, pharmacy, communications, infection prevention and infectious disease. The UVM Health Network continues to remain up-to-date with current CDC, Vermont Department of Health and New York State Department of Health recommendations. 

How worried should I be?

Given the spread of the virus across the globe, it is likely that COVID-19 will arrive in Vermont and Northern New York. While symptoms have ranged from mild to severe (for those with preexisting health issues), the majority of people have a fairly mild respiratory illness. It’s very important to keep this in perspective: 30-35 million people have been infected with influenza – about 15,000 people have died from the flu this year alone, and that number goes up every week, eclipsing the number of fatalities from COVID-19.

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