As with seasonal flu, the most vulnerable to the coronavirus are old people and others with compromised immune systems which applies directly to most of us who hang out at this blog.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week, so far the good old fashioned seasonal flu is more dangerous to Americans than the new caronavirus from China. That will be true until it's not anymore but the precautions work for both illnesses.
There is so much to say about the coronavirus let's get to the most important information first - how to protect ourselves – and then I will pass on some of the peripheral information.
WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS?
There are other coronaviruses. This one has never been seen before and it has jumped species from animals to humans – most likely from seafood. The first to be infected were workers and customers at the Wuhan wholesale seafood market.
Human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed in China, in the United States and in Germany. Tests elsewhere are ongoing.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE CORONAVIRUS?
The Guardian online newspaper has been doing excellent “explainers” of the illness. Here is their information on symptoms:
”The virus causes pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure.
“As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. If people are admitted to hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs as well as fluids. Recovery will depend on the strength of their immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.”
To state the obvious, this year's seasonal flu vaccine is not effective for the c0ronavirus.
As of Tuesday when I am writing this, there are only 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. That doesn't mean it won't change. Here are the recommended prevention measures. We all know them but we don't always follow them.
• Avoid close contact with people who are infected
• If you're sick, avoid interacting with other people - stay home
• Do not go to work if you're sick
• When you sneeze, cover your nose and mouth
• Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
• Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that could be contaminated with germs (like your phone)
• Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer with 60% alcohol or higher if you can't get to a sink.
WHAT ABOUT FACE MASKS?
China is reporting that face masks are sold out all around China, as they are in other countries as well. However, face masks are not as effective protection as the list above, according to the CDC, and health experts mostly advise against using them.
Last week, David Heymann, who led WHO's [World Health Organization] infectious disease unit at the time of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, told CNBC that wearing masks can be useful if you’re sick in order to prevent you from sneezing or coughing into somebody’s face.
“But, 'a mask that is used to stop getting an infection is sometimes not very effective because people take it off to eat, many times they are worn improperly (and) if they get wet and somebody sneezes on that mask it could pass through. So, there is really not a lot of evidence (to support wearing masks).'”
Except that masks are recommended for health care workers treating coronavirus patients.
IS THE U.S. PREPARED FOR A WIDESPREAD OUTBREAK?
Not according to a variety of news outlets. Reuters reported on Sunday that President Donald Trump seemed to downplay the impact on the United States,
”...telling Fox television in an interview, 'We’re gonna see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.'”
We shut it down?
In an announcement on the Health and Human Services (HHS) website last Friday, Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared the coronavirus a public health emergency which allows states, tribal and local health departments to temporarily reassign some personnel under certain circumstances.
Americans in China have been scrambling to return to the U.S. before a two-week quarantine goes into effect. According to The New York Times,
”The Trump administration ordered that as of Sunday afternoon, any American citizen who in the last two weeks had visited the Hubei province, whose capital city is Wuhan, was subject to a quarantine of up to 14 days after arriving in the United States.”
As is too often the case with this administration, facts and details about the extent of the quarantine and who it applies to vary. One person returning from China tried to avoid quarantine by leaving the military base where his private plane landed. (What is the matter with people.)
There may be other impediments to a swift government response. According to Laurie Garrett writing in Foreign Policy magazine last Friday,
”For the United States, the answers are especially worrying because the government has intentionally rendered itself incapable. In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure.
“In numerous phone calls and emails with key agencies across the U.S. government, the only consistent response I encountered was distressed confusion.
“If the United States still has a clear chain of command for pandemic response, the White House urgently needs to clarify what it is.”
Meanwhile, back in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus first appeared, a 1,000-bed hospital was build in 10 days and is open for business. Here is a time lapse of the construction which involved 7,000 workers:
A second instant hospital for coronavirus patients is currently under construction.
The important thing here today is that list above of how to help prevent infection. Let's all follow it carefully and diligently.